The Northern Powerhouse – halfbaked and still not rising

On Wednesday Richard Leese and I spoke at a New Statesman conference about the progress of the Northern Powerhouse.

In a country dominated by a southern-centric economy, when this ambitious project was originally revealed it was seen as chance Government to work with the cities and communities of the North and redress this imbalance.

Promises were made and plans were laid. Jake Berry was appointed as the Minister to ensure the ambitions of the Powerhouse were realised.

And then Brexit happened.

Considering the lack of real substantial work on the ground we’re in no better position than if Mary Berry had been at the helm.

So with the Powerhouse indefinitely stalled and the fingers of austerity tightening their grip, we’ve had to make some bold decisions. By doing things differently and by thinking more commercially, we’ve ensured we can still protect our services and the most vulnerable of our city.

Just look at our £1billion project at Paddington Village – this is a real game-changer for the city that is going to bring high quality jobs and new industry to the city. Our Invest to Earn scheme is another route that has seen us investing in the private sector to generate an income.

So if this can be achieved under such difficult circumstances, just think about the potential for the cities and towns of the North if they were to receive just a little help from the Government.

But for the real potential of the Northern Powerhouse to be realised, we need to see meaningful fiscal devolution and a committed move towards decentralised policy.

The power needs to be in the hands of the people who know the strengths of their region, rather than with out-of-touch politicians living in the leafy suburbs of Surrey. Targeted funding and an entire team of Northern Powerhouse ministers is needed to give the vision the commitment it needs.

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This week we moved a step closer in bringing about a game changing investment in our city’s future. Homes England, the Government’s Housing Agency, has awarded us a £9.9million grant to regenerate the former Festival Gardens site. The scope and vision for the site is as big as anything in Europe and something that can shape the future of Liverpool for years to come.

The money will allow essential remedial work to take place before the work on 1,400 new homes work begins, with the first expected to be available by 2022. We are excited about the enormous potential of the site which will bring new homes, new jobs and economic growth. It will also see a new first-class leisure and cultural space to the city.

 

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I feel like I’m going down to Paddington Village every other week at the minute and its testament to the exciting transformation underway. Renowned names like Rutherford Diagnostics and The Royal College of Physicians are already on site and Monday saw me at another flagship development – the topping out ceremony for Liverpool International College, an ambitious partnership between Kaplan and the University of Liverpool 

It’s another string to our bow at the £1 billion development making our city the destination of choice for Life Sciences, Medical and Knowledge Industries. The future prosperity of our city relies on developing an economy that generates high-skill, high-wage jobs for the future and Paddington Village, and the wider Knowledge Quarter, is key to delivering that. Looking out over the city and seeing cranes dotting the skyline brought home how our city is being transformed to deliver for the future. 

The college is going to be a game changer for students coming to our city. You couldn’t ask to be anywhere better, with world class education, research and job opportunities right on your doorstep. The state of the art facility, which prepares international students for entry into the University’s degree programmes, will make sure they have the life skills and support they need to succeed.

International students bring their knowledge, their skills and their dreams here and we need to show them what an ambitious city we are and persuade them to stay long after their studies. The global challenges that we face cross borders, countries and continents and we need to play our part by attracting the best and the brightest from across the globe. Having seen the amazing work underway I know we are in a better position than ever to do just that.