The Northern Powerhouse is kicking into gear.
Leading economic growth, record levels of employment, a renaissance of local power and regional collaborative efforts are all positive signs of this.
The Northern Powerhouse is not just about enterprise, economic growth, and employment, it is also about accountability and local government.
In the 19th century, the North became the crucible of the industrial revolution and the economic powerhouse of the British Empire. Enterprising spirit gave birth to pivotal inventions such as Lord Armstrong’s artillery and Stephenson’s Rocket. The North became the engine room for the whole country.
The Northern Powerhouse is about reviving that spirit. It is about unlimbering enterprise from red-tape and reinvigorating localised approaches and collaborative efforts. It is about growing the private sector so we can have real, sustained growth that supports great public services.
Above all, it is a vision based on the solid economic theory that while the individual cities and towns are strong, if we enable them to pool their strengths, they could be stronger together.
Although it is early days, green shoots are starting to show.
If it were an independent country, the North would be the ninth largest economy in Europe, worth £290billion, and if it grows as forecast it will add £37billion to the national economy by 2030. In the North East our technology industry has an annual turnover of £1.7billion. The Nissan factory in Sunderland produces more cars than Italy per year. The North has a £10billion Life Sciences industry, aided by world-class universities and teaching hospitals.
A new job is created in the North every five minutes. Employment has grown faster over the past year than in any other region. Unemployment in the North East has gone down by 41 per cent over the past five years, youth unemployment by 51 per cent. There are more people in work than ever before, and now 700,000 of them stand to benefit from the New Living Wage.
The Northern Powerhouse is not just about enterprise, economic growth, and employment, it is also about accountability and local government. A renaissance in local power has long been overdue. There will be the largest shake-up of local government for a generation — the devolution revolution.
The North East next year will be getting a Mayor as part of a package of new powers and funding. The deal is simple: greater control over local transport, housing, skills and healthcare. It will provide the tools to grow our local economy, and make sure local people keep the rewards. We are given a single point of accountability, someone we elect, who takes decisions and is a driving force for our region.
It is this Government that is giving power back to the North. The North is embracing that power.
The region has a single, locally driven transport plan, with £200million to improve travel across the North East. We will see the biggest transformation of the railways for decades in the TransPennine Express.
For the Northern Tourism Growth Fund, the Government has contributed £10million to be matched by £10million from public and private sector partners. It has a target spend of £177million, providing 3,280 potential jobs.
In research, the North’s universities are beacons of excellence. We have eight research-intensive universities, all ranked in the top 200 globally. Now they are working together to push our region’s initiatives to the cutting edge.
We are seeing health trusts coming together to create greater efficiencies, pool their learning and share best practice, creating a quality, leading health service.
We have a long way to go, and there are no quick fixes, but we are seeing encouraging signs of what the Northern Powerhouse can become.
Our businesses are pushing on, punching above their weight globally and creating jobs for local people. Powers are being returned to local areas through the North East Combined Authority. Crucially, bodies across the region are coming together to create leading transport, tourism, research and healthcare sectors.
It is this collective spirit that we need to champion so that we can re-empower the Northern Powerhouse of old.