Steve Rotheram
Steve Rotheram
Richard Bell

Industrial Strategy: South East bias will scupper Northern growth plans, says Metro Mayor

The UK’s hard-wired bias towards the South East could frustrate the Government’s proposed Industrial Strategy to raise productivity in the North, according to the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Speaking at the annual conference of Universities UK in London, Steve Rotheram called on the vice chancellors and senior academics in attendance to work with the new devolved structures in the English City Regions and play a deeper, more integral role in driving economic growth.

In challenging universities to become more connected, innovative and entrepreneurial, Mr Rotheram cited the work of the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores Universities, which he said are reshaping the Liverpool City Region economy in response to the challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

However, the Metro Mayor went on to warn that a structural bias towards London and the wider South East could jeopardise growth in the very areas showing the biggest productive potential.

Mr Rotheram explained: “Simply focusing on areas that are already overheating is one of the biggest obstacles to a National Industrial Strategy.

“The greatest potential to boost UK productivity lies in areas beyond the M25, but this will not happen without radical structural and cultural change.”

Among the evidence Mr Rotheram cited was a growing establishment lobby promoting London’s Crossrail 2 ahead of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and an imbalance in infrastructure investment favouring the South by a factor of six to one.

He also pointed to a discriminatory Treasury Benefit Cost Ratio evaluation model that favours areas with higher incomes, land values and tax receipts for major projects, and an imbalance in UK Research Council awards that sees almost 50% of all money handed to universities based in the so-called Golden Triangle linking London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Rebalancing the economy, the Metro Mayor said, is not about fairness but about growth and productivity, and realising the potential of the assets and communities of the North.

Steve Rotheram continued: “We need a thorough and unequivocal commitment to greater devolution as the only way to overcome hard-wired bias and metro-centric default positions.

“Our universities have a massive role to play in creating alternative centres of innovation and growth and becoming active agents for a genuinely devolved and balanced UK economy.”

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