Wednesday, February 24, 2016

News: Big hitters talk up Northern Powerhouse


As James Wharton MP, the minister with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse, meets with the chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the commercial secretary to the Treasury, Lord Jim O'Neill, visits the city region to talk about the next steps for the Northern Powerhouse idea and devolution for city regions.

Leaders from the business community – including Sir Nigel Knowles, global co-chairman of DLA Piper and new chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP – joined forces yesterday with James Wharton to identify investment opportunities which could further boost the economy across the north.

Delegates were examining ways to attract investment into the region from overseas. The minister is keen to highlight the potential of the Northern Powerhouse, which if it were a country it would have the 10th largest economy in the whole of Europe.

Speaking after the event, James Wharton said: "The Northern Powerhouse is neither defined by nor controlled from Whitehall. It is a locally based project in which businesses and voters decide what is best for their communities, and how money is best spent.

"So far we have secured a host of devolution deals, and invested in transport, science and the arts across the region. Yet if the Northern Powerhouse were to grow at the same projected rate as the rest of the UK, it would add an extra £37 billion to our national economy by the end of the next decade.

"That is why we are bringing together local leaders to discuss further investment projects to realise our potential. The Northern Powerhouse has massive potential to drive the UK's economy, and its prospects make it a lucrative place to invest and live."

Lord Jim O,Neill, commercial secretary to the Treasury and alumnus of the University of Sheffield, is set to speak at the university tonight. The institution's vice-chancellor, Keith Burnett wrote in the New Statesman this week that plans for the Northern Powerhouse must transcend party politics. He discusses the investment in skills, and the research facilities in universities in the north that can match anything in the south.

He told the publication: "When the Chancellor signed one of his northern devolution deals it mattered that he did so where he did. On the Orgreave site [now the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham] where Arthur Scargill led his members from the National Union of Mineworkers as police clashed with them, Labour leaders signed a deal with a Conservative chancellor, having already seen that a transformation in the north's fortunes was possible.

"The Chancellor's host at the devolution event was Professor Keith Ridgway. In a little over a decade he has transformed this site of industrial decline into the foremost manufacturing innovation centre in the UK and, arguably, the world. Partnering with Boeing, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and a hundred supply chain companies, what began as a collaborative centre of research into metals and machining is now a major manufacturing research park of the University of Sheffield.

"And, alongside it all, there is a top-quality apprentice training centre in which 600 young people are sponsored by companies to get the best manufacturing and engineering education in the world, their academic achievements fully integrated with company success. This is the part that we need to rebalance our society.

"So what happened when Osborne met Ridgway, when a chancellor met a working-class Mancunian who became a professor of engineering? It was a case of power meets purpose. The Treasury met a man whom the CEOs of great companies – from Korea to the US – and national labs have come to see as a one-man powerhouse, determined to create change.

"I have seen the power of people, the unparalleled effectiveness of someone who sees a problem and cares enough to drive through change. Someone bloody minded enough to believe that a slagheap can become an innovation district, and then make it happen.

"Politicians can argue about whether or not these are Labour or Tory values. I like to think they are as near to British values as we can get."

University of Sheffield website
Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: AMRC


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