North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair
In an ongoing series, Jamie Hardesty is talking to North East business leaders in an attempt to understand the region’s feelings towards the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.
This investigation, surveying regional business opinion, hopes to add coherence to the concept and today we present the views of Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair.
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?
It is the ability to think of things at a Northern, regional level and respond to them as the North with solutions that are appropriate to the North.
As an avowed, true Northerner, the challenges and opportunities the North has are tied into a set of Northern solutions.
Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?
I think there has been a lot of talk. I think a lot of that has been centred around the M62 Corridor.
More needs to be done to ensure the Northern part of the Northern region – the North East in particular – is better engaged within the Northern Powerhouse debate.
Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?
I think that the sentiment George Osborne has for the Northern Powerhouse, he truly believes that and there is an honesty in his position.
We are some way away from seeing the effect of those words on the ground at the moment. The powerhouse will be successful when people feel it within their communities rather than hearing it being discussed around a table in Whitehall or in business forums.
Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions on infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?
We are living in a globally competitive world and I believe being able to efficiently pull together large economic bodies is crucial to work effectively on the global economic stage.
Our transport infrastructure mirrors this. Travelling north to south is good, but east-west within the Northern Powerhouse region is poor. Travelling diagonally across the region is a beautiful journey and frankly, you have a lot of time to enjoy it!
An efficient transport infrastructure is vital to pull together the Northern economy, to make it operate efficiently as a single unit.
Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?
There’s been a lot written and said about education.
For the long-term benefit of the North, we need to have a fundamental improvement in education in the North of England – and it will take investment to achieve this.
Education standards are fundamental to driving the Northern Powerhouse agenda, as important as a better connected transport infrastructure.
Does the North East need a mayor? If so, who should it be?
I do think it is important that we have a mayor. I have to say that when it was first suggested I was concerned about an extra layer of bureaucracy – what does the post really mean?
But if we have devolved powers to the North East, we should have a democratically legitimate person or body responsible with the authority to oversee that devolution.
They are the only person working at a regional level.
As to who it should be, it needs to be somebody committed to delivering the Strategic Economic Plan for the region and who has the ability to see the region as more important than any one smaller constituency.
Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in the North East?
It will only be realised in the North East if it is something that everyone gets behind and supports.
I think people will only get behind it and support it if it is something truly meaningful to the individuals within our communities.
Thank you Andrew.
To get involved with this series or to find out more, contact Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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