Despite an initially rocky start and directional confusion post-EU referendum, Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse movement has continued to entertain headlines, fill conferences, and face off against its critics. Now, as its main political supporters reconcile the country’s future with the movement’s overarching goals, it’s become clear that the Northern Powerhouse shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
Shining a Spotlight on the Northern Powerhouse Today
As many commentators – including Manchester mayoral candidate Andy Burnham – have pointed out, the recent EU referendum has brought one very clear truth to the government’s attention: the North demands to be heard.
The Northern Powerhouse’s inception came about as a way to redress the balance between the region and London – and as a breakdown of the referendum result showed, the North still doesn’t feel that imbalance has been dealt with successfully.
We joined a number of influential business leaders invited to talk about IT’s role in the Northern Powerhouse’s success for a special edition of the New Statesman’s Spotlight. Although we had different focus points (such as inclusion, investment and transport), there was one common thread that stood out: we’re all far from done talking about the Northern Powerhouse and what it can achieve. What’s more, it was unanimous that that’s a very good thing.
Investing in the Future
A key aspect of the movement’s longevity, and one we must keep talking about – especially as Brexit and all its fears take hold – is investment. Whether that’s regional investment in emerging technologies, or taking the North to the wider world in order to generate foreign interest in the area; both options have the ability to supercharge the region.
Among our fellow contributors in the Spotlight, Andrew Percy (the latest to take the title of Northern Powerhouse minister) and Julie Dore (Sheffield City Council leader) were the most prominent voices when it came to both domestic and foreign investment.
Andrew Percy MP discussed in his article the shift of power between the North and Whitehall thanks to devolution. As a result of signing a devolution deal, cities in the North will experience autonomy like never before – including having a handle of their own budgets without Westminster interference. At a point where the next Northern revolution will be powered by technology and innovation, this is a promising prospect.
Casting an eye overseas, Julie Dore made it very clear in her Spotlight article that foreign investment had a large role to play in the North’s continuing development. Having successfully secured investment totalling almost £1bn over the coming decades from a Chinese construction firm, Dore and her team are providing Sheffield with the chance to blossom and fund projects which would not otherwise have been possible had the area not been championed in its own right.
Include & Collaborate to Succeed
In Kaleida’s piece for the New Statesman, MD Cath Kenyon highlighted not only the incredible opportunities available simply because the movement exists, but also the fact that collaboration is absolutely essential in making the most of these opportunities. It is our belief that communication and collaboration – certainly as part of an agile methodology – will be the key to the Northern Powerhouse’s success.
Arguably, however, this collaboration can only come about as a result of inclusion. Fellow contributor Dave Innes presented recent findings from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which highlighted the struggles faced in Northern towns outside of the main areas of focus (Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and so on). Rightly so, Dave pointed out that although employment rates have grown in certain parts of the North, the story isn’t the same across the whole region. We hope that addressing the imbalance within our own Powerhouse will be a huge priority for its supporters as the movement progresses. It could be devolution that helps to facilitate this.
Here to Stay
Although there are these regional divisions, and the fact that Theresa May was perhaps slow to give the Powerhouse her public backing, the Northern Powerhouse is still standing strong – even as the dust settles over the EU. Arguably, this makes it one of the most enduring Westminster initiatives of the current government.
Part of that refusal to bend comes from the dedication of the movement’s creator, George Osborne. In the wake of the referendum result, many naysayers were prepared for Osborne to retreat to the city to eke out an existence among the financial elite. Instead, he has reaffirmed his commitment to his original vision by launching a think tank to propel the Powerhouse further than ever before. Similarly, Lord O’Neill has made it clear that the Powerhouse will still enjoy ‘policy priority’, demonstrating that the movement is still very much at the forefront of government discussions.
Add to that the support from our fellow Spotlight contributors, it becomes abundantly clear that the Northern Powerhouse isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
With that conclusion in mind, the time has never been better for critics, opponents, business leaders, staunch supporters and ordinary members of the public to rally behind the movement and the region as a whole. The opportunities are there for us all to take – don’t miss out.
Be sure to read the full collection of articles in the New Statesman’s Northern Powerhouse edition of Spotlight. Got something to add about the discussion? Tweet us: @Kaleida_Ltd