Embrace the Northern Powerhouse, say business leaders

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Lindisfarne Mead on Holy Island. 'Picture by Jane Coltman

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Lindisfarne Mead on Holy Island. 'Picture by Jane Coltman

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More than 60 business leaders from across Northumberland and the North East have called on the region’s representatives to get behind the Northern Powerhouse initiative and ‘put a bold offer to the Government that will bring power and resources’.

The Northern Powerhouse is one of the Government’s flagship policies, aimed at boosting economic growth across the north of England. Prior to the General Election, Chancellor George Osborne visited north Northumberland to outline a six-point long-term economic plan for the North East.

One of the key tenets of this is devolution of powers to the regions, however, this is contingent on the introduction of elected mayors.

Yesterday, a group of business leaders, whose combined enterprises have a turnover in excess of £2.5billion and employ more than 5,000 people, wrote a letter calling on politicians to avoid trying to negotiate the mayoral issue, which has raised concerns in some quarters.

‘We believe the correct approach is for our local representatives to accept that the election decided the issue of elected Mayors and move on quickly to formulate a bid to Government for the powers we want to be devolved,’ it says, also warning that ‘brinkmanship over manifesto commitments is a dangerous game’.

The letter in full

Writing in a personal capacity, we want to raise public attention to the unique opportunities presented to the North East in connection with the Northern Powerhouse initiative.

The Government was re-elected with an outright majority and wants to hear from North East representatives about the powers and resources they want to see devolved to this region. However, it made a manifesto pledge that any transfer of powers would only be to areas that take the opportunity to introduce elected mayors.

Surprisingly, the media has been full of comment on this point from our local representatives, who seem to be reluctant to embrace this opportunity and are talking about ‘negotiation’ on mayors, rather than setting out the powers and resources we need in the North East. Some representatives have even claimed the Government does not have a mandate for its policy because most people in the North East voted Labour. Of course, if Labour had been elected, it would have been expected to implement policies, such as the mansion tax, that might not have been supported in the areas that it affected most, such as the Conservative-voting South East.

We believe the correct approach is for our local representatives to accept that the election decided the issue of elected mayors and move on quickly to formulate a bid to Government for the powers we want to be devolved.

We are at risk of being left behind by procrastination over the elected mayors issue. Manchester will have its new deal in full operation by May 2017. It would be all but impossible for us to achieve a deal by May 2018 unless our representatives ‘step on the gas’ and speed up their deliberations pulling together the type of bid that Ministers will find acceptable.

This is not a time for brinkmanship over manifesto commitments; it is a dangerous game that could result in the North East losing out. The time is right to put a bold offer to the Government that will bring power and resources to this region.

Full list of signatories

Adam Serfontein, Managing Director, The Hanro Group

Ajay Jagota, CEO, KIS Group

Alan Holmes, Non-executive Chairman of three private North East companies and Vice-Chair of an

FE College

Alasdair Greig, Director, Northstar Ventures Ltd

Alastair Balls

Alasdair Macdonald, CEO, Seanamic Group

Alastair Waite, Director, Altec Engineering

Dr Alex Buchan, Investment Manager, Northstar Ventures Ltd

Amanda Vigar, Managing Partner, V&A Vigar & Co (Darlington) LLP

Ammar Mirza CBE, Director, AmmarM (UK) Ltd

Andrew Nicholson, Managing Director, Nicholson Consultancy

Andrew Richardson, Deputy Chief Executive, Utilitywise PLC

Andrew Wilson, Managing Partner, UNW

Barry Pollock, Director, The Works

Brian Jobling, Executive Chairman, Eutechnyx Ltd

Caroline Moody , Business Development Director, Moody Logistics

Caroline Theobald, Managing Director, Bridge Club Ltd

Chris Thompson, Chief Executive, Express Group

Colin Coates, Chairman, Business Investors Group

Colin Willis, Managing Partner, Hotspur Capital Partners

Craig Peterson, Director, Growth Capital Ventures

Sir David Chapman Bt, DL

David Land, Board Member, North East LEP

Dr Tony Henfry, Chairman, Northstar Ventures Ltd

Duncan Young, Managing Director, Sanderson & Young

Ed Brown, Managing Director, Vega Environmental Consultants Ltd

Emma O’Rourke, Finance Director, Northstar Ventures Ltd

Fergus Trim, Founder, Broadoak Asset Management

Gary Boon, Managing Director, Shout Digital

Geoff Hodgson

Gill Southern, Director, Wessington Cryogenics Ltd

Geoff Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, Utilitywise PLC

Graham Robb, Senior Partner, Recognition PR Ltd

Hamish Moore, Senior Partner, Drummond HR Ltd

Ian Baggett, Chairman, Adderstone Group

Ian Gilthorpe, Senior Partner, Square One Law LLP

Ian Richards, Director, Northstar Ventures Ltd

Jeremy Middleton, Chief Executive, Middleton Enterprises

John Anderson QAEP, CBE, Chairman, North East BIC

John Barnett, Managing Director, Calsonic Kansei

John Reece, Chairman, Reece Group Ltd

John Savage, Managing Director, Flame Heating Spares

Jonathan Gold, Managing Director, Rivers Capital

Julie Drummond, Managing Director, Drummond Central Ltd, Newcastle

Kevan Carrick, Partner, JK Property Consultants

Louise Richley, Managing Director, Beyond Digital Systems Ltd

Lucy Armstrong , Chief Executive, The Alchemists (Northern) Ltd

Mark Haigh, Director, Professional Real Estate Co Ltd

Mark Harford, Managing Director, Urban Buffet Ltd

Mark Thompson, Managing Partner, Ryder Architecture

Michael Long, Director, Channon Contracts

Mike Odysseas, Managing Director, Odyssey Systems

Neville Bearpark, Corporate Finance Partner, UNW

Nick Moore, Chairman, D-Line

Nigel Mills, Chairman, The Lakes Distillery Co Ltd

Nigel Wright, Founder, Nigel Wright Recruitment

Norman Peterson, Director, Growth Capital Ventures

Paul Barron, Managing Director, Executives Online Northern England

Paul Kaiser, Corporate Finance Partner, UNW

Paul Ruddick, Managing Director, D-Line

Paul Varley, Board Member, North East LEP

Paul Walker, Chairman of Wandisco PLC

Pete Watson, Chief Executive, Atlas Cloud

Rick McArdle, Managing Director, Cottages of Northumberland

Robert Forrester, Chief Executive, Vertu Motors PLC

Russell Borthwick, Managing Partner, Dentsu Aegis Network, Newcastle

Tom Maxfield, Founder, Tom’s Companies

Dr Tony Trapp, Managing Director, Osbit Power