Matt Dale - a joint director of Leeds-based G3 Remarketing Ltd.
Nick Hill

What a Northern Powerhouse in Yorkshire means to: G3 Remarketing’s Matt Dale

As Bdaily’s Northern Powerhouse series continues to give the business people of Yorkshire the opportunity to voice their opinions on the the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, we speak with Matt Dale - a joint director of Leeds-based G3 Remarketing Ltd.

G3 Remarketing is an online and physical car auction brand serving vendors and purchasers throughout the UK. Having reached the £4m turnover milestone in 2015, G3 doubled its workforce in January to help fuel the company’s expansion plans for the year.

Two years have now passed since George Osborne first announced the government’s aim of creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and yet it can be argued that there is still very little understanding of what this actually is.

So let’s find out Matt’s take on a Northern Powerhouse in Yorkshire.

Hi Matt, so what do you think the Northern Powerhouse will do for Yorkshire?

I hope it will encourage further investment from overseas businesses and create greater opportunities for those seeking employment in the North. The UK has been London-centric for far too long and whilst the capital is critical to boosting the economic robustness of the UK in general, companies need to look further afield. There is more to the country than its capital and Yorkshire is ideally placed to provide the resources required to ensure success.

What will the Northern Powerhouse do for G3 Remarketing?

In much the same vein, if the Northern Powerhouse can raise awareness of the county, Yorkshire will cement its place on the corporate map. We are already seeing Leeds excelling in the financial services sector for instance, and Sheffield is quickly becoming a valuable creative hub for the IT industry. These two examples alone are significantly helping our operation, and that’s before we even think about recruitment.

Yorkshire based operators are also increasingly attracting overseas investment which ten years ago would have been a rarity.

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

Unfortunately, talk is exceptionally cheap and I believe that the Government, whilst purporting to promote the term ‘Northern Powerhouse’, has actually invested little to act on its promises. Personally, I think the people of Yorkshire have done more to promote the county and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision than the Government has. Sir Gary Verity and his Welcome to Yorkshire team, plus the stars of the 2012 Olympics have made significant strides to raise the profile of our great county.

Connectivity has been a major driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve the economic climate in the North?

Infrastructure investment is needed of course. However, personally, I’m exceptionally doubtful that spending c£50bn on the initial phase of HS2 – just to shave 15 minutes off the fastest rail time to London – is taxpayers’ money well spent.

In recent weeks, Leeds Bradford Airport has been enlightening the public of its 15-year development plan, claiming that having a rail station ‘nearby with a shuttle service to service the airport’ is going to help its growth and that of the Yorkshire region. Forgive me for being dismissive but would Heathrow or Gatwick rely on a ‘shuttle service’ to ferry passengers to London’s major airports? The simple answer is no.

If prosperity for the Yorkshire region is to improve, I think the answer lies in air. Robin Hood Airport is better located, with superior road infrastructure and a much larger potential commercial capacity than Leeds Bradford. Spending some of those billions on direct rail links between Sheffield/Doncaster/Leeds and further afield to Manchester’s airports and other city centres, is the key to our region becoming respected within world business market. Rather than diverting everything through the capital, let’s generate traffic directly into the region.

What, if any, other sectors/industries should the government key in on to achieve a Northern Powerhouse?

This is a really difficult question because what’s right for the region may not be right for the general economy. Ideally, subject to getting the required air connections, Yorkshire could become a serious world leader in IT but it must have international accessibility to succeed. Manufacturing has also been core to the regional economy over the last century and despite that skill-set being lost to overseas competitors, I foresee this type of industry slowly returning to the UK – providing the Government doesn’t impose further financial constraints on such businesses of course! Surely greater employment is more beneficial than greater taxation?

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

Transport is crucial but continuing to rely on businesses to fund the exchequer is short-sighted. Whilst the budget headlines promote savings for families and employees, the media very rarely focus on the stealth taxation levied against companies without whom the UK’s economy would be in dire straits. Whilst it is perhaps ‘uncool’ to promote favourable schemes to encourage real business growth, that’s really what the regional and UK economy needs to maintain success.

I’m by no means advocating the appalling deals struck with the likes of Google following the taxation debacle. However I do think that businesses are forever picking up the bill for new policies such as the new national living wage and stakeholder pension schemes. Reducing overall business taxation (not just the headline corporation taxation) would have a direct and positive impact on unemployment and economic growth.

As with the Sheffield, should the other regions in Yorkshire try to strike a devolution deal with the government?

I’m not overly convinced that the ‘devolution deal’ is financially substantial enough to make the impact that Whitehall has suggested. I’m all for local regions taking a greater control over their finances, however in real financial terms £20-£30m versus the billions generated in this region will have little, if any, impact on the local economy.

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in Yorkshire?

In all honestly I think it depends on the meaning of ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Central government will have us believe that it’s going to happen, however, at the moment, the term is just a headline maker. If Yorkshire manages to secure the necessary transport infrastructure then the benefits of a Northern Powerhouse could be realised. However I’m yet to be convinced that it truly is a key strategy within central Government.

Thank you Matt.

Don’t miss our latest Northern Powerhouse coverage here. To nominate a Yorkshire business leader to be part of our new series, contact Nick at nick.hill@bdaily.co.uk.

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