George Osborne first used the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ during a speech at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on 23rd June 2014 (read it here).
Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s really rather good and as a Northerner, I was very pleased and excited to read that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to invest huge amounts of money in the North not only on transport (road and rail) but also on science and innovation, art and culture. He was also going to give our great Northern cities more power to control their own budgets through devolution away from Westminster.
As you may know, this announcement was met with a great deal of scepticism from the political left, the media and the mainstream public (which you can read every day on Twitter via the #NorthernPowerhouse hashtag).
Even so, George Osborne has stayed true to his word by committing considerable sums of money to major transport infrastructure projects, academic institutions and cultural projects. Greater Manchester is also leading the way when it comes to devolution of power with the mostly Labour-supporting North West, North East and Yorkshire gradually getting over their natural mistrust of the Conservative party and seeing the potential benefits on offer.
In the 8 months I spent as ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’ for Tech North, a Government-backed organisations created to promote and accelerate digital entrepreneurship in the 7 cities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, most people I met in the North hated the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ but loved the ideas behind it. The main complaints being that it sounded Victorian and like heavy industrial machinery of the past, or too patronising and imposed on them from the Tory rulers in London. In response I would tell people that this was a huge and long-awaited opportunity for the North and that they should try to put such thoughts to one side if it meant a rebalancing of the UK economy in favour of the Northern cities.
Even though I left Tech North at the end of March 2016 to start my own business, I still believe that the Northern Powerhouse is a tremendous opportunity for our Northern cities to reassert themselves as the great global economic hubs that they once were and so am speaking and writing regularly on this subject wherever possible.
You can read what I think by clicking on the press article screenshots below:
The Institute of Directors (IoD)’s Special Report in Director magazine (June 2016)
Bdaily (May 2016)
The New Statesman (February 2016)