Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy explains how the concept can benefit the region and beyond.
Throughout history the North East has been a centre for commerce and industry. In the 14th century it was a thriving hub for the wool trade, in the 16th century it became the centre for coal, and by the 19th century its shipbuilding prowess ensured Britain had the largest fleet in the world. Now in the 21st Century, the North East is on the rise again with the development of the Northern Powerhouse, and is showing the world it is open for business.
The North has over one million businesses, seven international airports and four of the world’s top universities. Our economy was worth £304 billion in 2014, similar to the whole of Belgium, while last year employment growth in the North East was the fastest in the UK. It is the people of the North who own this success, matched by Government support. From the establishment of Transport for the North, to the agreement of four mayoral devolution deals (including Tees Valley), and from the creation of a £70m Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy to investments in northern scientific strengths like the Cognitive Computing Centre at Daresbury and the Sir Henry Royce Institute in Manchester.
The Government has taken the steps to start making the Northern Powerhouse a reality. And yet we know there is even more untapped potential in the North. That’s why in his Autumn Statement the Chancellor set out his plans for long-term investment in the growth and productivity of the whole UK – which included a further £500million of local growth funding for new business projects in the North.
Our aim is simple – to fire up the Northern economy so it reaches its potential and we create a country that works for everyone. We will build on past progress to encourage a thriving private sector as well as train highly-skilled workers who can make the most of the opportunities on offer. First – we’ll transform transport by investing a record £13bn by 2020. The people of the North East will benefit from upgrade works to the A1, to complete the motorway corridor all the way from Newcastle to London.
Second – we’ll support skills across the region. Alongside our reforms to create better schools, we’ll also work with local areas to improve teacher recruitment and graduate retention across the North.
Third – we’ll invest in innovation. From next year, in addition to the Growth Deal funding, we’ll be investing a further £500 million through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and Neighbouring North East Fund. This investment will help small businesses with the best ideas get them off the ground, and we’ll continue creating 17 Northern Enterprise Zones backed by big investments. This will create world-class facilities like those at the Newcastle Science Central – a future home to tech organisations.
Finally – we’re going to target trade for the North. Investment from abroad shot up by a quarter last year, a rate twice the national average, and we’ll work to make sure that continues. We’ve already pitched a portfolio of 13 potential projects to investors worth £5 billion including generating hotels, residential and retail at Vaux in Sunderland.
As a Northerner, I know that sometimes we can talk ourselves down, but we shouldn’t – the North has some of the best people and businesses in the world. The Northern Powerhouse has been, and will continue to be, driven by local and combined authorities, LEPs, businesses and, from next year, new directly elected Mayors with new powers and direct accountability. Our country is leaving the EU and forging a new place in the world. It’s a new chapter in our history, there will be new freedoms and opportunities, and our embassies and Northern Powerhouse trade missions will make sure people in the North East benefit.
Visit the North East today and you’ll find a region bursting with ideas, passion, hard work and creativity. It’s why the Prime Minister recently announced Newcastle-Gateshead would host the Great Exhibition of the North after fending off stiff competition. That success will be repeated as our plans for the Northern Powerhouse unlock the vast potential of the North East, and ensure its proud past is matched by an even brighter future.