Image Source: Paul Stevenson

Member Article

The London of the North

The “super city” talks which have taken place between Manchester and Leeds represent a promising start, but are not nearly ambitious enough.

International studies have shown that where countries have more devolved local control, cities tend to do better economically. The government’s tight central control of UK finances, local infrastructure development and skills provision has limited what can be achieved in northern cities. With the domination of the south-east economy, northern cities are not competing on a level playing field, which is undermining UK economic growth and hindering the UK from making full use of its diverse regional economic assets. It is therefore vital that economic decentralisation takes place to free us from the dead-hand yoke of Westminster politics. A “London of the north” is what’s needed.

But no city in the north standing in isolation - or even two in partnership - can hope to restore balance to an economy which is tilted heavily in favour of the south-east, so a concerted strategy for challenging the status quo is sorely needed. A ‘cities coalition’ is the obvious solution, making geographical proximity factors an issue of practical importance. Moreover, coalitions at local government level are out of the question, since the last thing the regions would wish to create is another layer of government.

What’s needed therefore is a union of the six Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) of The Humber, Sheffield City Region, Leeds City Region, Greater Manchester, Cheshire & Warrington and Liverpool City Region to create an economic ‘super-region,’ to be known as the Northern Gateway.

The Northern Gateway will act as a counterbalance to the dominant economic power of the South East and will rival the influence of the world’s great capitals and trading-blocks.

The Board of the Northern Gateway Strategic Partnership will comprise members delegated by each of the six LEPs and will maintain a strategic remit in relation to economic expansion, transport and infrastructure development across the super-region. It will have the responsibility of raising the capital investment necessary to underpin its objectives. It will be the primary procurer of government and EU funding to meet the super-regional capital investment requirements, thereafter delegating to the six LEPs the authority for overseeing the development projects within their respective city regions.

It can be foreseen that the resultant increase in economic activity will have a transformational impact on the whole northern economy.

The coalescing of the diverse attributes of the six city regions will create a unique metropolitan super-region combining all the assets needed to become a world-renowned hub of economic activity.

The easterly ports of Hull, Grimsby and Immingham will jointly provide the Northern Gateway for European freight. This unique natural asset is already on track to become a major world centre for the development of offshore wind technology, which also supplements the Humber’s existing generating capacity and emerging strengths in biomass, biofuels, energy from waste and tidal stream power.

Meanwhile in the west of the super-region the £1 billion investment in Liverpool Superport currently underway presents a generational opportunity to place the Northern Gateway logistics infrastructure at the heart of business in the UK, creating a global freight hub for the northern UK and Ireland. The development of a super-region will further enhance the potential for Liverpool’s innovative, cost-efficient, sustainable port and logistics operations.

The diverse economic base at the heart of the super-region is contained within the city regions of Manchester and Sheffield, where the historical legacy of manufacturing can be seen to continue to impact upon the UK. As well as their traditional manufacturing activities, the policy of continuous diversification into aerospace, healthcare, creative and digital sectors guarantees a prosperous future. Moreover, the investment in both city regions in technology and advanced manufacturing measures can be orchestrated to have transformational influence across the super-region.

The continued growth and development within the Northern Gateway will be underpinned by the largest banking, finance and business services centre outside London, based in the Leeds city region. Expecting to grow by 51% in the next eight years, this facility will offer stable, secure investment opportunities for the entire super-region.

Geographically, the Northern Gateway super-region will not conform to the traditional mono-centric conurbation model: the core cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull will be multiple drivers of growth, with the benefit of other major towns within their respective city regions as key contributors. The benefit of a super-regional growth strategy will stimulate the establishment of a fully-integrated transport infrastructure to serve the growing needs of the Northern Gateway and beyond. Issues which have escaped the attention of Westminster such as the implementation of faster east/west rail services and the construction of an all-weather cross-Pennine trunk road between Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire will become manageable priorities within the super-regional context. The optimisation of commercial aviation services across the six international airports within the Northern Gateway will ensure the most favourable access to global investors whilst attracting air traffic away from the overcrowded skies in the south-east.

This proposal offers the prospect of the forging of a whole new identity within the worldwide network of dynamic business locations on offer to global investors, having sufficient power and influence to compete with the world’s most renowned powerhouse economies. The six Northern Gateway city regions have the potential to work together in a pivotal super-regional coalition to make the case for greater investment in the Northern Gateway on the basis that it will help to grow the UK economy in general and the north in particular. It requires a passionate, coherent commonality of vision, strategy and cooperation amongst a wide body of commercial and public sector stakeholders which transcends the present structure of individual city regions.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by FSB South and East Yorkshire .

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