Onside Issue 5 - 36

But the government has pressed on with its agenda,
most notably in terms of promising long-overdue
investment in the region's creaking transport
infrastructure. It's expected that Osborne's pledge of a
£161m upgrade to the M62, £75m to explore options for
a trans-Pennine road tunnel between Manchester and
Sheffield, and £60m to develop detailed plans for a fast
rail link between Manchester and Leeds will be kept.
However the IPPR say such investment ignores the
role of small and medium-sized cities (SMCs) in the
powerhouse equation. IPPR analysis has shown that 20
SMCs with populations of more than 75,000 represent
nearly one third of the north's economy (£82bn) and
have experienced gross value added (GVA) growth of
34% since 2009, comparable with rates of productivity
in the core cities. For instance, Wigan and Burnley
have higher labour productivity rates than Manchester.
However the IPPR concedes that many SMCs do face
significant challenges. "Very often these are a function
of their peripherality in relation to larger urban centres,
and of their ongoing transitions from their industrial
pasts," says Cox.

"Universities are an important gateway to
skilled people and a great shop-window for
the north"

Power to all the people
Many believe that only by fully embracing these
towns and cities can the Northern Powerhouse really
start motoring.
Outgoing Green Party leader Natalie Bennett says
devolution has the potential to be "a real force in social,
economic and environmental change", but there are
fatal flaws in the government's current plan.



As she told a recent lecture in Manchester: "There
is a clear danger that centralised, ill-informed and
ill-directed decision-making from London will be
replaced by ill-informed, centralised ill-directed
decision-making in central Manchester. Power should
flow upwards from the people. Nothing should be done
centrally if it can be done better or equally well locally."
She said 'Devo Manc' was nothing more than the result
of confidential bargains between the Treasury and a
small group of local dealmakers, and that responsibility
for health and social care services had been handed
over without anything like the funds needed to pay to
meet those responsibilities.

On this point many agree, saying Manchester needs far
more fiscal devolution and control of its balance sheet,
in particular borrowing powers.
That said, if Manchester makes a success of running
its own health and social care system then more
devolution could follow. The Greater Manchester
Combined Authority now controls the city's £6bn health
and social care budget, and the hope is that a locally
managed healthcare system will improve services
while also saving money. The Government also recently
announced that Manchester would gain control of parts
of its criminal justice system.

More skills
But what of skills, another of the key drivers for
economic growth?
Damian Grimshaw, Professor of Employment Studies
at Alliance Manchester Business School, says the
central role of skills in driving the regional economy
must be better recognised and it is only by developing,
attracting and retaining skills that the powerhouse can
be successful.
"By putting skills at the core of the North's growing
ambitions there is a better chance that we can secure
distributed growth, but there is still a need to address
long-standing challenges. These include re-engaging
young people who are not in education, employment
or training, improving female representation in digital
jobs, widening higher education access, and connecting
skills with innovation in new models of work."
Universities will also have a key role to play here. As
Wharton adds: "Universities are an important gateway
to skilled people and a great shop-window for the
North, while they also have a key role to play in terms of
engagement with the commercial world. If this is going
to work we need skilled people and we need them to stay
in the north."
Leese agrees that improving skills are just as important
as improving transport infrastructure, but the two also
go hand in hand. As he adds: "The biggest single thing
that transport does is to increase the availability of
skilled labour. How many people can get to a particular
place and how quickly is a big measure of how successful
that place is going to be. By improving connectivity
across Northern cities we are increasing the availability
of the workforce we can reach out to."
In short, there remains a lot of unknowns in relation to
the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse, but one thing
which we do know is that the chances of delivering
enhanced growth and prosperity for the region are
greatly improved by forward thinking individuals and
companies such as Seneca and the extensive number
of HNWs and entrepreneurs that they work with.


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Onside Issue 5

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Onside Issue 5 - Contents
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