The Northern Powerhouse cannot reach its full potential without cross-party consensus
The Northern Powerhouse is vital to unlocking the north’s economic potential – but it requires inclusive investment across the whole region, says John Stevenson
The first meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for the Northern Powerhouse, held at the end of November, was an exciting opportunity to further develop the roadmap towards delivering the transformational vision of the Northern Powerhouse.
I have long believed in the potential of the Northern Powerhouse strategy to transform the north, and as the co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse APPG, I believe we can make real strides in turning the Northern Powerhouse vision into a reality.
The scope of the Northern Powerhouse project is vast. It aims to align almost every policy domain under the singular ambition of realising the full economic potential of the north by growing it into a global destination for investment. But this cannot happen without the widest possible consensus on how to proceed from all political persuasions.
The Northern Powerhouse demands cooperation from central government and local authorities, and from business and industry. It requires extensive collaboration from bodies and organisations that may have quite different philosophies. But as long as we can all agree that we share the same goal, namely increasing standards of living in the north, closing the productivity gap with London and ensuring the north flourishes to its full potential, we can find common ground, knit together our diverse viewpoints and, from there, proceed towards action. It is this vital cross-party consensus and joined-up thinking that the APPG for the northern powerhouse is well placed to foster.
Building on the theme of inclusivity, I am eager as the MP for Carlisle to ensure the Northern Powerhouse strategy remains focused on the entire north. Because the north’s largest cities will be at the forefront of driving growth, it would be easy to overlook a smaller city like Carlisle, or its county of Cumbria. But that is not what the Northern Powerhouse strategy is about.
I am keen for its watchwords to remain: “a rising tide lifts all ships”. With even, inclusive, investment across the whole north, all its assets can be fully tapped into, which will in turn lead to greater benefits for each individual region of the north.
Following on from this, at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse vision is the recognition that a better-connected north will be symbiotic – each region, with its own assets and opportunities, can, with the right investment in infrastructure, help the rest of the north grow.
Investment in road, rail, air and digital infrastructure is already under way across the north, and a priority for the northern powerhouse APPG will be to ensure it continues. By ensuring more people and products can move faster across, into and out of the north, its strongest economic assets can be made to grow at the fastest possible rate.
Instrumental in ensuring this is fully realised will be Transport for the North (TfN), a new body that will receive statutory powers next year and will coordinate transport development across the north, like Transport for London has done in the capital. The northern powerhouse APPG will work closely with TfN to ensure that consensus on a pan-northern transport strategy is maintained from the planning stage to implementation.
In addition to working alongside Transport for the North, the northern powerhouse APPG will be working closely with the minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Jake Berry. The creation of a ministerial role and TfN shows that the government is serious about making the Northern Powerhouse a reality.
I am confident that with these first building blocks in place and more on the way, for example the start of the High Speed 2 project, the Northern Powerhouse APPG will be involved in a venture that will go the full distance, from strategy to reality.
I am proud to be involved in this undertaking, and I look forward to doing my part in making sure the Northern Powerhouse is a complete success.
John Stevenson is the Conservative MP for Carlisle and co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse APPG
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