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We need a Northern Economic Recovery Plan to unleash the Green Industrial Revolution

We need a  Northern Economic Recovery Plan to unleash the Green Industrial Revolution

Credit: PA Images

3 min read

There needs to be a plan for the North - to capture, direct and sustain investment: to pump prime our communities and unleash the opportunity which we, as their advocates, know are already there

In December millions of voters in the North broke with the habit of a generation and elected a wave of Conservative MPs across what is now well known as 'the Red Wall.'

The drivers for that change have been well rehearsed and understood: voters tired of their communities being ignored and left behind; that their desire to leave the EU was being frustrated by the elites in Westminster, and a deep-set antipathy to the Labour Party's then leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

But there was something deeper at work too - a promise by Boris Johnson to level up every part of the UK - to ensure that children in communities like mine would attend schools with the same funding as those in central London, and that the crumbling infrastructure connecting (or not) towns and communities would see significant renewal.

Our voters made a radical decision to vote for change, and we need to be equally radical in our response for them.

We need a Northern Economic Recovery Plan that focusses on our multitude of strengths and makes the North, once the heart of the Industrial Revolution, the home of the Green Industrial Revolution.

One year in and, in spite of Coronavirus, we already see some of the fruits of levelling-up. In Barrow and Furness, the seat I am fortunate to represent, we have secured £25million in a Town Deal and almost £15million to bypass the farmyard that one of two A-roads cut in two.

My colleagues from across the Red Wall will be able to tell similar stories.

These projects are much needed, but to truly level-up we can't rely on piecemeal infrastructure spending, no matter how welcome each individual piece may well be.

Instead there needs to be a plan for the North - to capture, direct and sustain investment: to pump prime our communities and unleash the opportunity which we, as their advocates, know are already there.

We need a Northern Economic Recovery Plan that focusses on our multitude of strengths and makes the North, once the heart of the Industrial Revolution, the home of the Green Industrial Revolution.

Project Speed, championed by the Treasury as a vehicle to tie together strategic investment projects, will be key to enabling this to happen.

When I look from my constituency up the Cumbrian coast and over to Morecambe Bay, I see the opportunities staring us in the face: new nuclear; a bid for the concept fusion reactor; offshore wind; tidal energy; gas, and the potential for blue hydrogen production.

The skills are already deep-set in our communities - as is the academic base - but something far greater could be achieved by strategic investments unlocked by Project Speed and, dare I say it, an industrial strategy to support them.

Because while new infrastructure and investment will help communities like mine a great deal, we need to tackle the whole person problem: if we want to keep the great people we have, and to attract more to our communities, then we have to make them attractive to not just the person applying for a job, but to their families and children too.

Making places sticky is one of the largest problems facing communities like mine - but by working across government and our communities we can do it - reversing the brain drain, and locking in not just investment, but also making sure that money earned in our communities is spent there too, finally reversing the decade long decline of some of our most proud Northern towns.

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