Outside of the media eye in 2017, things seem to have cooled off for the Northern Powerhouse. But is that really the case, or are we all just getting on with it quietly?
2017 was a year full of loud events. Trump was creating friction with his divisive interpretation of politics, Brexit fears reached a fever pitch, and a snap election pulled the spotlight away from most other occurrences as leaders squabbled and news programmes weighed up the race at every opportunity.
Amongst all the commotion, the Northern Powerhouse – the golden child of George Osborne’s days in Cameron’s cabinet – received little acknowledgement. The noise-making of the movement’s early days seems to have died down, but does that really mean the dream of turning the North into a post-Brexit force has gone quiet too?
Getting On With It
If you’ve shared this same concern, you’ll be glad to know that it isn’t the case. Whilst yes, press attention has lessened in the face of 2017’s raucous political events, the secret of the Northern Powerhouse is simply that the region is getting on with it.
Despite a continual roster of individuals made responsible for the Northern Powerhouse, the movement has found steadfast support across the region. This was especially visible following the chancellor’s budget unveiling in December, when Manchester mayor Andy Burnham called the £300million pledge for Northern Powerhouse transport improvements “thin pickings”. Some of the money was, after all, pledged to improve mobile use on the Manchester-Leeds line – hardly a priority, as regular commuters will attest.
Meanwhile, figures at the end of 2017 showed that Greater Manchester in particular had benefited from an economic boost since the launch of Powerhouse activities in 2014. Drawing on the average contribution of individuals living in an area, the Office for National Statistics devised a ‘gross value added per head’ (GVA) score, which can be used to compare the growth of various city regions. Between 2014 and 2016, Greater Manchester outpaced the capital with 6.8% growth – from £21,435 to £22,886 – whilst West Yorkshire came second (6.1%) and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in third (5.5%).
So, whilst we may not have been bombarded with news on the Powerhouse, its effect is still being felt across the region, spurred on by the belief of several key supporters. There’s still mileage left in the movement.
Getting the House in Order
“It’s also important that the North steps up to the plate and doesn’t just take the begging bowl everywhere, but actually gets its own house in order and starts to work together and produce plans and strategies.” – John Stevenson via MEN
That’s not to say, however, that there isn’t still work to be done. Now that last year’s political turmoil has died down, there’s a chance for the region to rally around the Northern Powerhouse and call for more support.
Speaking on the subject, John Stevenson – Conservative MP for Carlisle – suggested that MPs lobby the treasury for more funding, but was careful to point out that the region couldn’t simply “take the begging bowl everywhere”. Instead, the North needs to work together in a cohesive fashion to build iron cast strategies and give the movement the momentum which central government is avoiding.
Sharing this sentiment was Ed Cox, director of IPPR think tank’s North of England arm, who was quoted in Manchester Evening News as saying “the jury is still out on how supportive the government is”. With Westminster’s commitment to helping the North achieve its goals coming under serious scrutiny last year, it’s clearly becoming a matter of how the North will help the North.
Not Gone, Not Forgotten
So, despite a quiet period and a questionable level of support from the government, the Northern Powerhouse is still making waves across the North, to the benefit of local businesses. Most recently, a Clitheroe-based door hardware company received £50,000 investment from the Northern Powerhouse fund – an amount which is sure to support the firm’s plans for expansion.
If the region does come together to support the Northern Powerhouse movement in 2018, then we can hopefully expect more success stories such as this one, with investments creating long-term opportunities across the North. But if this is to work, the North must follow the cue of Stevenson and Cox and ensure that this is a self-supported enterprise to compensate for government apathy.
Seeing as the North has a reputation and a history for innovation and industriousness, I doubt that there’s much to worry about, in that case. Long live the Northern Powerhouse!
At Kaleida, we’re proud to be based in the North, working with businesses to put themselves on the map. As bespoke software developers, we’re proof that support for the Northern Powerhouse can come in all shapes and sizes. To find out more about the software development services on offer, feel free to explore our website or get in touch directly.