A thriving north must be the cornerstone of a successful post-Brexit Britain

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership the NP11, says the Northern Powerhouse proves the North’s ability to lead from the front.

3 October 2019

Since the Northern Powerhouse agenda was launched five years ago, leaders from across northern England have taken great strides towards creating a thriving northern economy.

From the establishment of Transport for the North to successful devolution deals and the election of impactful Metro Mayors such as Andy Burnham, the north is proving its ability to lead from the front.

As a post-Brexit future now rapidly approaches, this is a process which must accelerate so that we can better spread opportunity and wealth to all corners of our region and indeed for the country.

As the 2016 Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review made clear, the north has major strengths in renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, digital, health innovation, logistics, professional services and higher education, underpinned by a world-class visitor economy. With a population of 15 million - larger than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined - our region should be front and centre of government's plans for a truly global UK.

But increased collaboration across the north will also be essential if we are to deliver an even stronger northern economy in a post-Brexit Britain. NP11 was established last year to do exactly that, by promoting cooperation between the north’s eleven business- led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

The LEPs play a unique role in shaping the economic strategy in their areas, channelling and attracting commercial and government investment, and supporting businesses to grow.

Since it was established, NP11 has worked closely with the government to coordinate a comprehensive approach to driving growth and turbo-charging Britain’s economy.

As a united voice representing northern LEPs, our ambition is to accelerate that work together and ensure the north punches well above its weight.

Our momentum built further last month when the Convention of the North, NP11 and the government came together in Rotherham to deliver a major Northern Powerhouse event.

Policymakers and business leaders from across the north set the agenda, articulating their offer and ask of government. From northern leaders, business representatives, academics, and third sector organisations, it was a demonstration of how collectively, the north can help drive Britain’s economic development, social investment and inclusive growth.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended to announce a number of new key policies that will bolster the Northern Powerhouse agenda, including a strengthened Northern Powerhouse growth body that will build on the partnerships and relationships we have established to help “maximise the power of the north”

He also renewed commitment to a devolution deal with Sheffield, to opening up negotiations with Leeds City Region, and to giving the north more control over its railways.

This is, of course, a step forward and has been welcomed by the NP11 and Convention of the North partners. But the proof will be in the detail and we now need government's actions to match its words in order to accelerate our ambitions.

In particular, the new Northern Powerhouse growth body will only be wholly effective if it is created ina manner that is truly representative of the north and for the north.

NP11 has stressed that this new body’s first task must be to create and deliver upon a jointly agreed, coherent Northern Powerhouse Strategy - a Manifesto for the North - which will set out clearly what the north is asking of its own people, as well as from government to unlock its extraordinary potential.

What makes our region so unique is that no two parts are the same, and each area has its own strengths, which is why Local Industrial Strategies will also be such an important piece of the jigsaw, demonstrating the strength and depth of the new northern economy.

NP11 is working closely with our member LEPs, including Chair of the Greater Manchester LEP Mike Blackburn, to ensure these strategies are laser-focused on driving inclusive growth and international competitiveness, whilst showcasing the north’s offer.

Infrastructure investment, industrial strategy and trade policy must be align to make the most of future opportunities.

Combining the outputs from the NP11 LEP’s, with the north’s Local Industrial Strategies and - when it is established - the new Northern Powerhouse growth body, will be essential if we are to be united and continue speaking with one voice in the months ahead - something I, alongside my NP11 colleagues will be prioritising.

The past few weeks have provided a timely opportunity to reboot the Northern Powerhouse’s ambition, accelerate progress and stress that building a thriving and well-connected north should be a major government priority in creating a more prosperous and productive post-Brexit Britain.

NP11 stands ready and able to help deliver.


This article originally appeared in Manchester Evening News Business