The private sector alone will not be able to realise the full potential of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse according to national property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton’s (LSH) most senior figure in the region.
Matthew Scrimshaw, head of Yorkshire and the North East for LSH, was speaking after a new report found that planned infrastructure investment remained heavily weighted towards the South East with London receiving more investment than all the rest of the regions combined.
Poor connectivity remains a barrier
Matthew said that while organic private sector growth can generate some momentum for the Northern Powerhouse, he said it is generally accepted that the poor connectivity from east to west remained the largest barrier to the initiative’s success – a fact that would be well understood by the minister responsible for the Northern Powerhouse.
“There is no question that east-west transport links must be radically improved if we are to see the Northern Powerhouse achieve its full potential and not be constrained or reduced to a couple of strong regional centres with everything in between not getting the full benefit,” said Matthew.
East-west rail links are painfully slow
“James Wharton MP, who has been appointed as the minister responsible for Northern Powerhouse, studied in York and then worked as a lawyer in the North East so he will know better than anybody that the north-south rail links are already fast while the east-west links are painfully slow.”
According to the report by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (Speri), infrastructure investment in London is about to reach £45bn or £5,305 per person compared to £1,946 per head in the North West, £851 per head in Yorkshire and Humberside and just £414 per head in the North east – the lowest of any region in the country.
The Northern Powerhouse initiative – aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy away from the dominant South East – is coupled with a major drive to devolve power to the regions and Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield have all submitted bids to create new city regions overseen by elected mayors which will have significantly increased autonomy over spending on key services.
Devolution will be the key to success
These bids are set to be evaluated by the Government once Parliament returns on September 7 and Matthew believes that devolution will be the key to the Northern Powerhouse’s success.
He said: “There is a real determination to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality but the Government must ensure that investment in the right projects is made a priority so that everyone can see that this whole initiative is not just empty rhetoric.
Connecting all cities in the north
“Without this commitment then there is a real danger that this becomes all about Manchester to the exclusion of the rest of the north when the region’s strength lies in properly connecting all the cities in the north from Liverpool all the way up to Newcastle.
“Hopefully devolution will be the key to kick-starting this process but only provided both sides of the Pennines act as one as far as the Northern Powerhouse is concerned and the Government allocates sufficient funds to unlock the huge potential in the region.”
Lambert Smith Hampton is working in partnership with the event organisers of the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference, which takes place on 25 and 26 February 2016 at Manchester Central, to ensure the north comes together to leverage its assets and resources in order to capitalise on the Government's Northern Powerhouse initiative.