Hannah Davies blog: A Convention of the North

Head of External Affairs Hannah Davies attended a gathering of Northern leaders last week - here's what she learnt

When did the idea of ‘the North’ become a thing? I remember at University being proud that I was a Northerner, claiming it as an identity away from home.

But growing up it was Newcastle versus Sunderland, Manchester versus Liverpool, Sheffield versus Leeds. Local big town rivalries down to local school rivalries.

The North is now however definitely a ‘thing’ – no surprising the Convention of the North was so exciting.

The Metro Mayors are taking on the mantle as its figureheads and talking to each other, central government talks of ‘place-based industrial strategy’.

The government’s Northern Powerhouse and the separate Northern Powerhouse Partnership are exciting and active – drawing in trade and attention to the region

The Northern Health Science Alliance has drawn in millions in investment into the region’s health system – and mapped out an extensive plan of all its health research opportunities.

When that includes more world-class universities than Italy, France and Spain combined and UK leading hospitals in clinical research – you’re talking substantial opportunity.

We know there’s power in the North when it brings its strengths together.

Here’s a (very) brief rundown:

Who was there?

Metro Mayors Andy BurnhamSteve Rotherham, elected Mayors from across the North, council leaders from across the North including Nick Forbes of Newcastle who gave opening remarks, Local Enterprise Councils, Chamber of Commerce, business groups, trade unions, Transport for the North, big business, SME business, arts groups, third sector.

What did people say?

Devolution is a way central government is putting money into the North – areas with Metro mayors are seeing the advantages of this.

The North isn’t after handouts – it’s after control of its own budgets to help it grow according to what is needed locally, not according to a national agenda.

The North needs to continue to be creative, to develop its own plans – not reliant on government.

The issues:

Brexit

Despite having a GDP larger than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales put together we don’t have representation on Brexit.

We have the potential to be hit hardest by Brexit.

We need to make sure Shared Prosperity Funds are planned for and used in the right places to help the right people and grow

Transport

Infrastructure in the North is poor and it needs to be improved – a Crossrail for the Northwould be transformative and bring millions to the economy.

Local infrastructure to help people to travel to jobs, education, for childcare and socially are also crucial.

Ports across the North and airports across the North need to be connected to support our manufacturing and service trades.

Skills

We need to upskill the North – making the most of its great universities, further education colleges and apprenticeships

Let’s work on retaining our graduates

Employers need to invest in their workforce from the highest to lowest paid workers.

To get the best out of people they need to be inclusive.

Set up a Northern Schools Improvement Board

 

What next?

There should be a yearly Convention of the North

More young people need to be invited

The North achieves more when it works together – including across party-political lines

The North holds huge untapped potential – growing it will benefit ALL of the UK

We want to work together – now let’s make it happen.

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