Mark Brandwood, managing partner at Brabners
Richard Bell

North West views: Brabners’ Mark Brandwood on the Northern Powerhouse

With the government’s vision of creating a Northern Powerhouse commanding the attention of the North West business community, particularly in the wake of the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition, at Bdaily we’ve decided to run a new series of interviews to establish just what the region’s business leaders think of the plans.

Is the North West set for an overhaul in the coming years - one to turn the region into a true example of economic empowerment through business growth, job creation and prosperity?

Today we caught up with Mark Brandwood, the managing partner at North West commercial law firm Brabners.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?

The North West has experienced a great deal of change over the past two decades, and the Northern Powerhouse movement is emblematic of the shift from regeneration and recovery, to growth and independence.

It evokes a renewed sense of confidence in the region and it’s imperative that we continue to promote the benefits of doing business in the North, demonstrating how important organisations across the region are to the national economy. If the concept of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ helps this cause, and leads to further investment in the region, it can only be a good thing.

Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?

To date, the number of concrete policies that back up the idea of a Northern Powerhouse have been limited and while it must be acknowledged that we’re only at the beginning of this process, there’s more for the government to do to match the level of private sector investment taking place across the region.

Significant sums are being invested into major infrastructure projects, such as Liverpool2 – Peel Ports’ new deep-water terminal, and the government needs to match this with the right type of support. By meeting its promise of investment in the right infrastructure, the government will be able to ensure this scheme, and others like it, are able to deliver the long-term benefits they are capable of.

The business community will always be receptive to further proposals to rebalance the UK economy, but it’s important that any proposals don’t just pay lip service to the idea of an empowered North.

Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?

It’s positive to see a continued focus from the government on investment in the North, and actions such as the devolution movement are an encouraging step towards rebalancing the UK economy.

That being said, there’s an air of cynicism among the business community as to the details of government plans, and those in power need to demonstrate how they will deliver on these promises. In addition to improvements in infrastructure, which will be key to the region becoming a true economic powerhouse, there’s also a need for long-term thinking and stability from the government. Particularly for sectors such as renewable energy, which continue to be affected by changes in government policy.

Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions on infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?

Improving connections between our towns and cities is vital, but proposals for HS2 and HS3 remain a long way off. In the meantime, I’d like to see the Northern Powerhouse campaign champion some of the schemes that are already here, such as Superport.

Superport – the group of logistics assets located from the Port of Liverpool along the Manchester Ship Canal – is just one example, yet its impact on trade presents an immediate opportunity to create a world class supply chain hub in the North West. This could have a significant impact on the region, in terms of attracting manufacturers to locate here and acting as a draw for logistics businesses, but the government needs to provide support that will enable these projects to have a significant impact, now.

Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?

Infrastructure is understandably a key priority for the government, but there’s a need to look beyond this. The North West is home to a diverse range of sectors that, with further investment and the right support, present significant growth opportunities for the region.

For example, we recently produced a report that highlights the need for investment in the cleantech sector. With a large industrial base, and the inefficiencies of an ageing infrastructure, driving a need for new energy solutions there’s a compelling case for further investment here. A significant opportunity when you also consider the number of leading research institutions on our doorstep.

While Manchester is a key city in the government’s vision, do you think enough is being done to cater for other important North West towns and cities?

It’s not only the conurbations that surround Manchester and Liverpool that have the potential to deliver growth, and the government must ensure measures are put in place that will positively impact other key areas across the region.

Improvements to transport infrastructure will be key here, and towns and cities across the North West will benefit from becoming better connected.

For all our latest Northern Powerhouse news and views, click here. Share your views and get involved with our latest interview series by contacting North West editor Richard at richard.bell@bdaily.co.uk.

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