Creating a shared vision for the North

In his latest column for the Yorkshire Post, LEP Chair Roger Marsh OBE looks ahead to September's Convention of the North/NP11 summit and the opportunities it will bring to push forward ambitious plans for the Northern Powerhouse.

Next month will see the largest ever gathering of political, business, community, and academic leaders, and young people’s groups, from across the North of England in Rotherham to debate and discuss the future of the region.  

Taking place at the Magna Science Adventure Centre, an iconic former steelworks that has been transformed into an award-winning educational and entertainment venue, the summit is about engaging with the new Prime Minister and Government to create a shared vision for the North and the positive contribution it can make to the UK as a whole. 

Five years on from the then Chancellor adopting the Northern Powerhouse as Government policy and at a moment where the country is asking itself profound questions around generating clean growth that benefits all regions and communities, there is a renewed opportunity for the North to present itself as a significant part of the solution. 

A true powerhouse for the UK

As chair of the NP11 group of Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships, I have seen first-hand just how ambitious we are and the tremendous appetite there is across the North of England to do more than pull our weight on the national and international stage. 

As a region, the North is home to over 15 million people – making us larger than London – and the Northern Powerhouse is aeconomy worth over £339 billion, bigger than that of Scotland or Wales, with the potential to make a substantial contribution to the rebalancing of the UK economy. 

But the ambitions that we and, I believe, the Government share for the Northern Powerhouse can only be made a reality if all parts of the North are able to fire on all cylinders using the right powers and investment.  

If there is one criticism, it’s that over time it’s looked less like a coherent strategy and more like a convenient label to attach to a series of initiatives across the North. Such a piecemeal approach will not address the long-standing issues that have held our economy – and too many of our people – back for too long. 

Hosted by the Convention of the North in conjunction with NP11 and with support from Government, the summit in Rotherham will bring together the N8 research partnership, the People’s Powerhouse, Northern Power Women, Northern Powerhouse Partnership and leading think-tanks such as IPPR. Young people from across the North will also set out their vision for the North’s future, and how current leaders need to work together to achieve it. 

It’s particularly important that young people are represented and have a seat at the table when the future of the region is being discussed. Building a prosperous region that offers strong job prospects for everyone – young and old alike – is a vital part of rebalancing the country and delivering inclusive growth that will benefit all in society. We want our young people to shape the future of their region. 

Positive steps 

I welcome the positive start the Prime Minister has made in terms of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Visiting the North on his third day in office and making a commitment on delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester was an important signal. In the middle of August, the Prime Minister visited Leeds, having identified the need to invest in the city’s transport network as part of his leadership campaign. From this promising start we need to see momentum, detail and a comprehensive shared vision encompassing the whole of the North. 

It is positive to see that Jake Berry MP has retained his as Northern Powerhouse Minister responsibilities and will now also attend Cabinet. Having someone to represent the interests of the North at this level is an important step in ensuring that the Northern Powerhouse is a thread running through Government policy, seen as part of the solution and not merely a label attached to initiatives. 

I and my fellow LEP Chairs across the North look forward to working with the new Prime Minister and we hope he will strongly consider attending the summit so together we can renew momentum behind this essential programme. Speakers and more details of the agenda will be released over the coming weeks. 

Building a thriving and well-connected Northern Powerhouse is key to ensuring that we create a productive and successful post-Brexit Britain. Ambitions to turbo-charge the North will only be achieved through effective collaboration and strong consensus across all of our great Northern towns, cities and rural communities, unlocked by sustained investment and greater powers for the North to take its own decisions about the issues that affect it.  

This conference is the moment to inject new momentum into this ambitious agenda.