Andrew Wilson, head of Brooks Macdonald’s York office.
Nick Hill

What a Northern Powerhouse in Yorkshire means to: Andrew Wilson, head of Brooks Macdonald’s York office

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 Andrew Wilson, a senior investment director and head of the York office for Brooks Macdonald.

Brooks Macdonald is one of the UK’s leading investment management firms. Andrew is responsible for managing client portfolios and relationships for its clients across Yorkshire and the North East.

What do you think the Northern Powerhouse will do for Yorkshire?

A key element regarding the Northern Powerhouse is that it connects the whole of the North. We’ve seen this idea before in John Prescott’s ‘Northern Way’. However, this failed to take off as not all regions signed up to its vision.

As we reach the second phase of the Northern Powerhouse, council leaders of Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield have joined those of Manchester and Liverpool in looking to drive through this vision.

Yorkshire is a key member of this development and this should allow for the region to see increased opportunities for jobs, economic growth and development. We can already see positive impacts in terms of jobs, industry and consumption in the port towns of Hull and Grimsby and expect this to accelerate once plans start to be implemented.

What will the Northern Powerhouse do for Brooks Macdonald?

The financial services sector in the North should benefit from greater migration to the region of both clients and providers, along with economic growth. We should also benefit from improved accessibility for commuters. Brooks Macdonald is a nationwide company and has been committed to the North since 2007. With two offices here already, we remain dedicated to supporting the region and delivering an excellent service to our growing client base in Yorkshire and across the North.

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

The March 2016 budget provided further clarification around the second phase of the Northern Powerhouse since the first announcements in 2014. The proposals for more devolution of powers to the North, including piloting 100% business rate retention in Greater Manchester and Liverpool to support local authorities, is a welcome next stage of the commitment to this vision.

The range of infrastructure announcements, along with a timetable of expected works through to 2020 is a welcome commitment. Proposals for HS3 between Manchester and Leeds to reduce journey times to around 30 minutes; accelerating the upgrade of the M62 to a smart four-lane motorway; and developing a new transPennine tunnel under the Peak District are all issues that resonate.

Beyond more clarification of the details regarding the second phase of the vision it is also encouraging that a North East MP, James Wharton, has been chosen as the Northern Powerhouse minister. Arguably, though, this should be alongside a Northern Powerhouse Department based in the North.

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

The connectivity of the North is critical to the success of the Northern Powerhouse, and will ultimately drive through economic growth and labour market productivity. Infrastructure spending is shown to boost consumption and economic activity in the short term, and in the longer term should bring jobs, security and sustained economic growth.

To put the current transport issues in perspective, it is currently quicker to travel the 283 miles from London to Paris by train than it is to travel less than half the distance between Liverpool and Hull. Unfortunately, to deliver improved connectivity requires significant investment. Whether the amount of funding announced will be sufficient to achieve this aim remains uncertain but the benefits that connectivity will bring are clear. In monetary terms Treasury figures suggest the rebalancing of the UK economy would be worth an additional £56bn to the Northern economy; or £44bn in real terms.

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

In Manchester the focus is also on technology and culture which have been targeted as key sector and industries for growth going forward. Focusing on specific sectors is important but building strong skills sets across all sectors including manufacturing is also important. The Northern Powerhouse will look to raise its profile internationally – most notably in China – and therefore the development of industries on a global scale will also impact the sectors of growth in the region going forward.

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

Beyond transport, education and developing skills of workers is a key area. However, without the stronger transport connectivity in the region the expected economic growth of the Northern Powerhouse is likely to be diluted. With Hull becoming the City of Culture in 2017, it was nice to see this recognised in the recent budget with some near-term focus in the shape of a £13million funding pledge.

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

Striking a devolution deal has obvious benefits (increased autonomy) and weaknesses (increased separation from the government). As this is a new development, and with the Manchester devolution still in its infancy, I think there is an element of ‘wait and see’ to see what the big cities gain from engaging in the process.

Leeds and Newcastle are already on board with the development of the Northern Powerhouse, showing that its appeal has grown considerably in the last in the two years. However, regions not only in the North, but also across the country, will be monitoring its developments very closely.

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in Yorkshire?

The recent budget continues to push this forward, and Hull and Grimsby are already good examples of beneficiaries of the proposals.

Transport is the first key goal. Confidence in the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse will increase when some of the key infrastructure projects are completed but for the moment, there appears a strong will both locally and from Government to see this vision fulfilled.

Thank you Andrew.

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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