The UK is often accused of being overly reliant on the capital for growth, with London’s input pushing the South’s average annual GVA up to 4.3 per cent between 1997 and 2012, compared to 3.8 per cent for the north, according to the Office for National Statistics. In particular, northern advocates point to regional spending disparities which put the region at a disadvantage. In fact, the Institute for Public Policy Research finds Londoners receive 24 times as much infrastructure spending per head as their northern counterparts.
Thankfully, the government is looking to address these imbalances, outlining a raft of measures to help northern businesses compete on an international scale within the Autumn Statement.
Following these announcements, the region’s leading minds gathered at Business Insider’s Northern Powerhouse conference on Wednesday to pave the way for a brighter future for the north. Through a series of panel debates, the event covered three main points of action for the region: devolution, science and innovation and transport and growth.
Manchester businesses welcomed plans introduced last month to grant city authorities greater power over local spending decisions, and the conference was keen to explore opportunities to extend this model to other northern cities. However, delegates stressed that a coordinated approach must be taken to devolution, with Siemens CEO Juergen Maier stating:
“If every devolved region does its own thing it would be the worst possible scenario. You need a national industrial strategy and then you agree which regions are going to take ownership of which areas to create world-class clusters.”
Equally, the event focused on the need to reinforce the north’s strengths in science and innovation, especially through creating stronger connections between universities, businesses and public authorities to drive research initiatives and overcome skills shortages.
Finally, attention turned to the topic of transport and plans to develop Britain’s high speed rail network. All agreed that more efficient transport links were essential, both between cities within the region and to major overseas export hubs, but opinions were mixed over where investment should be concentrated across the various transport networks.
All in all, the event painted a promising picture for the north, opening up debate as to how to pave the way for future growth and providing a necessary platform for the region’s businesses to be heard.
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