Former LEP chairman claims Northern Powerhouse project lacks focus

Northern Powerhouse event
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The Northern Powerhouse project came in for criticism at a discussion event in MIPIM.

The event was organised by the Northern Powerhouse group but one of the panellists claimed that the initiative lacked focus.

The panel was chaired by Henri Murison, chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and included Roger Marsh, chair of the NP11 group and Leeds City Region LEP; Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council; Nigel Knowles, International Advisor, Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership; Christine Gaskell, Cheshire & Warrington LEP; and Asif Hamid, chair of Liverpool City Region LEP.

Sir Nigel Knowles, who was the Sheffield Cirty Region LEP chairman until December, is now an international adviser. He was representing the Sheffield region at the event. Sir Nigel is the former global co-chairman of the law firm DLA Piper and since 2017 chairman of DWF LLP.

He said: “The Northern Powerhouse is the right concept but at the moment it lacks focus.

“The foot needs to be put on the pedal to make it more competitive, it is also vital we have more connectivity with the rest of the country.”

David Taylor from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership tackled the issue of connectivity.

He said: “There is confusion in the South East about what HS2 is about. They often talk about journey times but the most important thing is capacity.

“Increasing capacity is vital for the region’s economy. There has been some talk about funding and whether HS2 will go ahead. I think that is a disgrace.”

Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, took part in the debate.

He said: “There is a very clear vision of what the Northern Powerhouse is all about.  This is not a quick fix we are at the start of a very long journey.

“The North needs to fight for what it needs but one thing we can say is that the funding is in place for Northern Crossrail.”

Roger Marsh, from the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We need to be very clear what the future of the North is going to look like.

“The investment to date has not dealt with all of the problems that our economy faces and they are not going to be solved in we carry on in the same way.

“We need to create a North that does not continue to be dependent on funding from the Government. We need to create an economy that is a net contributor and that is not a short term project.”

Asif Hamid, from the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We need to get devolution of powers to the North now.

“Politics in London is a basket case, let’s talk about what we can do to give us the power to make our own choices.”

“We have a vital role to play in facilitating this collaboration and ensuring businesses are fully engaged in determining how best to drive the Northern economy forward.”

Henri Murison said: “ “We in the North know of its phenomenal economic potential.

“The Northern Powerhouse’s major presence at MIPIM brought together leading voices to discuss a range of exciting projects and the transformative impact they can bring to our Northern regions.”