Autumn Statement: The northern powerhouse must be more than just Manchester

Ideas for a northern powerhouse are welcome. Now the chancellor must go further.

Ideas for a northern powerhouse are welcome. Now the chancellor must go further

We could all see it coming down the line but when it arrived, emphasis on a northern powerhouse in today’s Autumn Statement will have cheered businesses and city leaders in the winter of the Parliament. For so long we have cried out for a clear strategy to rebalance the national economy and at last some of the building blocks are being put into place.

Although trainsets are often the preferred means of driving growth, it was right that the chancellor should emphasise investment in research in materials science, high value manufacturing and our ageing population.

Each of these will build upon existing strengths, for too long unrecognised in the corridors of Whitehall. Each will require joint-working between Northern universities so reinforces the idea that the Northern powerhouse will only happen if collaboration comes to the fore.

This collaboration will be made all the more possible by this week’s infrastructure announcements which will bring down journey times between northern cities and also strengthen the much-needed interconnectivity within city-regions.

The chancellor offered further warm words for a so-called HS3 link across the Pennines, but these still need to be translated into clear investment proposals and do not yet feature in the National Infrastructure Pipeline figures.

The new pipeline figures published this week do show some rebalancing but no fundamental change with London and the South East still set to gobble up 60 per cent of all public-involved infrastructure funding in the years ahead compared with just 1 per cent in the North East.

It’s also important to note that Public Sector Net Investment is still just 3.8 per cent of public spending and is forecast to fall to 3.4 per cent by 2020.

If there is any disappointment then it is the fact that other cities have yet to follow Manchester and broker their own devolution deals. It is right that they should take the necessary time to ensure their deals meet their local aspirations, but they must not lose the devolutionary momentum generated by the Scottish referendum and we must see plans for progress outside of the big cities too.

Building blocks these may well be, but there is still plenty of track for leaders – local and national – to go further. With the general election now firmly on the horizon, ideas for a northern powerhouse represent a platform upon which an even bigger crowd should gather.

Ed Cox is director of IPPR North

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2 Responses to “Autumn Statement: The northern powerhouse must be more than just Manchester”

  1. Dave Stewart

    As a materials scientist working in a university in the North West I am sick to death of the government (of any colour) attempting to pick scientific winners. It is not how science works. The funding money needs to go to the people and places who put forward the best proposals. Some government minister reading a pop science article about graphene and deciding that that is going to be the future is absurd. No one knows whether many of the much talked about uses of graphene will ever come to anything while meanwhile someone else who has a different but not favored idea which could have lead to world changing developments will be starved of funding as a direct result. Government ministers should not be interfering with the work of the funding boards.

  2. Elephant

    The Northern Powerhouse should be renamed the Manchester Powerhouse. A good strategy to get the rest of the North hating Manchester as much as the rest of the UK hates London. All three of Manchester’s mainline stations are being transformed in the Northern Hub project,no other city is getting a penny apart from Leeds getting two extra platforms(Yippee). The new Sir Henry Royce centre is being built and the other cities of the North are to have small sites to complement this as a sweetener ,plus the new Factory Arts Facility on the site of Granada studios to house the Manchester international festival. Mediacity is now the second biggest media operation in the whole of Europe and Manchester is becoming a digital business mecca and is growing as a huge tourist destination having recently taken over from Edinburgh as the UK’S second most visited city,there is even talk of a beach.The Metrolink has over a hundred stops and a new line to the Trafford centre has just been announced with a line to Stockport now being mentioned as a serious possibility,The towns around the city are being swallowed up because of the trams making them part of a three million population. The roads leading to the city from all points of the compass are heaving with traffic every day as the job market grows now faster than the South East. A new port is being built in Barton with huge road projects linking it with Mediacity and the city centre.The airport will soon have direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai.The university is now regarded as part of the ‘Golden diamond’ with London at the bottom,Oxford and Cambridge on each side and Manchester at the top as the four world class centres for research. Building projects are everywhere,including NOMA which is the largest construction site outside the capital, and swanky London restaurants are opening new branches in the city almost daily. It takes more money in retail than every other city in the North combined if the Trafford centre is included. in ten years time the rest of the North will be as relevant to Manchester as Croydon and Watford are to London. It will soon have Devolution and control of it’s own budget and soon an Assembly will be built.The rest of England let alone the North can dream of this investment.

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