Paul Tooth, CEO and co-founder of BrightHR
Richard Bell

North West views: BrightHR CEO Paul Tooth 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 Paul Tooth, the CEO and co-founder of human resources management firm BrightHR.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?

For me, the Northern Powerhouse means supporting northern businesses, regional development to the same extent as London is supported at the moment. This means eradicating the ‘North/South’ divide which sometimes hinders business development across the North.

There are so many successful cities to do business in across the North and empowering businesses and employees who work here will be key to Northern Powerhouse growth.

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

We’ve already witnessed promising devolution plans which have seen local councils across Manchester working together as part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. This gives our region additional powers and will see a new mayor elected in 2017, allowing more control over the budget allowance in Greater Manchester.

This initiative is really exciting as it means local people and businesses can ensure extra funding is spent on the things that really matter.

Ongoing construction work across the region is also improving the outlook that people have, showing work is actually taking place as well as supporting much needed job growth.

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

It was encouraging to hear the Northern Powerhouse initiatives mentioned as part of George Osbourne’s budget [in March]. Plans announced included the promised improvement of the east-west train link as well as development for an 18-mile tunnel under the Peak District.

Whilst this does set out great plans for the region which will improve the flexibility of movement across the North, I do believe many supporters of the Northern Powerhouse will still be sceptical until work actually takes place.

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

The improvement of transport across the region is really important to allow businesses to be more flexible and commuting times to be cut. Interconnectivity between Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Hull is key to allow people the option of a fast train commute or improved motorway routes.

This will undoubtedly be one of the factors which will improve productivity as it gives further power and flexibility to businesses that work here.

However, although transport links are great, we don’t just want people moving from one city to the next; we also need genuine investment in those towns people commute from so the North doesn’t become a region of dormitory towns.

In addition there is room for the development of a number of new towns to aid connectivity, with the midpoint between Manchester and Leeds being a particularly strong contender for development.

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

Giving businesses across the North West some extra incentives of funding would be great to increase a Northern Powerhouse buzz. Across the North we have seen thousands of new digital startups in particular and foundations such as Tech North are brilliant for championing digital talent.

As a digital startup ourselves, we are particularly passionate about this and recently supported digital business school Hyper Island by challenging a group of creative students from all over the world to take on a real business brief.

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?

Initially the plans were more weighted towards Manchester and Leeds, however following the Budget announcement Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have signed a joint commitment to delivering a fully connected Northern Powerhouse.

If we all work together there shouldn’t be a reason why we can’t build the idea as long as we continue to see support from the government.

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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