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Industrial Strategy: What’s in store for the North West?

by Richard Bell

The Government has been relatively quiet on all things Northern Powerhouse since last summer, when former PM David Cameron stepped down following the EU Referendum and Theresa May took the helm at Whitehall.

But all that changed this week with the unveiling of the Government’s Green Paper, Building our Industrial Strategy – the beginning of what looks like a new drive for more government intervention in UK industry.

Rather than outright replacing ex-Chancellor George Osborne’s plans for a Northern Powerhouse, Westminster appears to be building on his proposals; charging full-steam ahead to create a more balanced (geographically speaking) UK economy.

Delivering an economy that “works for everyone” is the aim of the game, according to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, but what sorts of projects can the North West expect to see supported with the funding laid out in the Government strategy?

Let’s start with the financials. The Local Enterprise Partnerships making up the North West will receive a combined £327.9m, with a sizable chunk of that (£130.1m) going to the Greater Manchester LEP and the rest going to the Liverpool City Region (£72m), Lancashire (£69.8m), Cheshire and Warrington (£43.3m) and Cumbria (£12.7m).

The specific schemes to benefit from the Industrial Strategy will no doubt be revealed by the individual LEPs in due course. We already know how the Lancashire LEP plans to spend the cash.

But according to the Government’s announcement this morning, in the North West it hopes to build on the work of Transport for the North, support key transport investments (like the M60 North West Quadrant) and provide development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail (AKA the east-west High Speed 3 rail line).

It will also support top-level research and innovation strengths in the region, such as Manchester’s National Graphene Institute. This includes £10m for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund.

What do you think of the Building our Industrial Strategy Green Paper? Are you confident the government will move beyond rhetoric to deliver on its plans – or will this initiative lose steam as the government deals with matters in Europe?

It’s my belief the Industrial Strategy couldn’t have come at a better time. With general morale on the wane as we wait for the Government to sort itself out regarding Brexit negotiations, and public interest in the Northern Powerhouse continuing its downward spiral (according to new research from BDO), I think this is just what we needed.

The £327.9m for the North West could make a huge difference, so now I’d like to see just how the LEPs plan to allocate the cash and position this region as the beating heart of the Northern economy.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.