It is virtually impossible at the moment to avoid reading about or listening to one leading member of the Government or another promoting the Northern Powerhouse. We even have a dedicated Northern Powerhouse Minister.
The idea is a good one in principle – take the 15 million population of the northern cities of England and re-label it as a collective force to rival London & the South East and take on the World. The Government is putting a lot of time and effort into promoting the concept, talking about investing billions of pounds of public money in large infrastructure projects to help power the powerhouse.
But what is the reality? Time will tell whether the Government’s promise is something more than just empty words, but Yorkshire has to seize its opportunity. Manchester was first out of the blocks and, arguably the Northern Powerhouse is really only a North Western Powerhouse at this stage. Manchester has already assumed the mantle of the capital of the north, building on the vision & leadership shown by Sir Howard Bernstein, Sir Richard Leese and others over the last 15 years to create a first class city built on property, infrastructure and transport development.
The logical solution on this side of the Pennines is that all parts of Yorkshire - the biggest (and best) county – should combine to form one powerful economic region. It has the advantage of a name which is renowned the World over. However, that increasingly appears to be a fanciful, romantic notion spoilt by too many disparate interests competing with one another for power. The leading figures need to stop their political squabbling about elected mayors and which local authorities should tie up with each other and get their collective acts together quickly. Just 6 out of 38 city regions have so far entered into devolution deals with the Government, including the Sheffield City Region. The other Yorkshire authorities continue to be at loggerheads, putting forward different, competing proposals and risk missing the boat.
If the Government is determined to invest in the regions, Yorkshire must be at the forefront and not allow Manchester to take the lion’s share of the investment and develop a south-east/north-west axis to the British economy.
Written by Richard Wheeldon of Berwins Solicitors.