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What is the Northern Powerhouse

What is the Northern Powerhouse

It’s the second time I have been asked to take part in a debate on this subject.

Last November I took part in a Look North special, which posed the question,

“should the people of Yorkshire have more say in the key decisions that affect their lives?”

I came away from this earlier debate not really much clearer about what the Northern Powerhouse was actually trying to achieve and who would make those key decisions on behalf of Yorkshire or indeed which geographical area the Northern Powerhouse was going to represent.

After Friday’s debate I’m afraid I wasn’t much wiser, but perhaps just a little bit more annoyed. It seems to me that some politicians are enjoying some clever debate & battling over who should hold the power rather than first considering what the critical decisions are.

So trying to make more sense of the debate I foraged around Google and found a document entitled

The Northern Powerhouse

One Agenda, One Economy, One North.

It’s a joint publication from the Northern City Regions, the Local Enterprise Partnership & the Transport for the North Partnership Board.

Great news! Its about collaboration not competition between the various bodies or regions.

The opening paragraphs make more sense than most of the debate I have heard to date;

Our shared aim is to transform Northern growth, re-balance the country’s economy and establish the North as a global powerhouse. This strategy sets out how transport is a fundamental part of achieving these goals and how we will develop the long-term investment programmes needed.

Excellent connectivity across the North will take the city regions’ individual performance to the next level, bringing them together to help create the critical mass to compete globally

 Its a document with economics not politics at its core. The transport agenda focuses on moving freight efficiently around the region as it expands economically and on moving people, with a more mobile workforce allowing for better matching of skills with opportunity.

I am a frequent rail traveller, largely because I don’t enjoy sitting in traffic queues whilst polluting the environment; I prefer to make use of my time to work or catch up on news or enjoy a good book. As such though I am painfully aware of how slow and infrequent, expensive and under-resourced the rail services are around the North; for me there can be no greater visual evidence of the North South divide than the contrast between the newly refurbished glitzy Kings Cross Station and the drab ugliness of the overcrowded Leeds station.

Improving the current woefully inadequate transport links has been identified as one of the main priorities to boost the economy of the North.

Reading further into the document it seems that there is already an infrastructure in place to create a global economic power in the North

 Fundamental to the Northern Powerhouse is each Northern city region reaching its full potential. That means better education, matching skills to business growth areas of the future; new models of business support and economic regeneration; and better connecting people to jobs. City regions and their Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) pull together public and private sectors to do this, using Strategic Economic Plans to drive growth and development; and to ensure people can better access jobs and a brighter future

This document fills me with optimism that the Northern Powerhouse can be the mechanism through which the North South economic imbalance can be addressed, but it is very much an economic not a political agenda.

So lets cut down the clever debate, the talk of creating new layers of bureaucracy and power for the sake of power and focus on this agenda.

Do we need a mayor? For me we certainly don’t need any more politicians and we certainly don’t need a ceremonial mayor.

Perhaps what we need are ambassadors for the North, people who will market the region in an apolitical way to ensure that we can enjoy the health, wealth, education and prosperity that the region is capable of delivering.

Coincidentally, this afternoon my daughter asked me to read over an essay she had written about how graduates can improve their employment prospects, in her essay she talks about the dramatic imbalance between the number of graduate opportunities offered by leading graduate employers in London compared to those offered in the regions.

The Northern Powerhouse has it in its gift to redress this imbalance of opportunities for current & future generations and shouldn’t we continue to focus on this rather than worrying about out debating each other or creating more meaningless political constructs?