Once the promise of a redressed balance, the Northern Powerhouse has come to symbolise Westminster’s loss of interest in the region in favour of Brexit. But before declaring the movement dead, can we pull together to get it back on track?
When it was first announced in 2015, the Northern Powerhouse was held up as shining proof that the government was – despite assumptions – invested in bolstering the north.
Built on a raft of ideas, such as better transport, devolved authority, and investment in skills, the Northern Powerhouse went from becoming an idea to a movement almost overnight.
Five years on, however, and the movement is seemingly lacking in actual…movement. Whilst there have been some victories – such as Manchester gaining control over its budgeting and its residents being able to vote for a mayor – there’s still much to be done to redress the woeful balance between north and south.
Not Without Hope
Although things have undeniably quietened (perhaps unsurprisingly in the face of the drum-banging of Brexit, and the challenges of austerity), there’s still hope for the Northern Powerhouse to clamber back to life.
Not least because northern businesses want a better balance between themselves and their southern counterparts – especially when we’ve left the EU and must strengthen ties abroad.
Of course, we’re a northern company (and optimists at that) and we wholeheartedly support the Northern Powerhouse initiative to increase opportunities in our home region. So, by focusing on the positives, we want to take the power of the powerhouse into our own hands and boost the northern economy for the better.
This can be achieved with five important ways:
Focusing on Achievements
Undoubtedly, there is a north/south divide when it comes to economic growth, but over the past few years and despite Brexit uncertainty, we have somewhat narrowed that gap. Rather than focusing on doom and gloom, our first point of call is to look at what we’ve accomplished as a region so far.
Our professional, science, and tech industries, for example, have all expanded, with 34,520 new jobs in these sectors, as well as an additional 54,523 manufacturing roles too. Northern manufacturers have also seen a pre-Brexit boost as companies stockpile goods in preparation for the October 31st exit deadline.
Northern cities are developing a reputation as real start-up hubs, with Manchester leading the charge due to its reputation for digital innovation and its social-first fast fashion boom that is now spreading to other cities such as Liverpool, Leeds, and Glasgow. Likewise, Northern real estate is hot property as professionals gravitate towards luxury apartments and spacious homes at fraction of London prices, all without having to sacrifice fast-paced city living or career progression and job opportunity that was previously only found in the capital.
Despite economic uncertainty, cities in the North have experienced an average 10.7% rise in average economic growth, besting the average UK (excluding London) increase of 9.7%. Employment has also increased by around 7%, marginally higher than the UK average of just 6%, showing that we are giving London a run for its money in many different ways.
Looking to the Future
Cities in the North have developed strong reputations for technology, creativity, and innovation. With fast-fashion powerhouses like Missguided, Boohoo.com, PLT and many more, Manchester is proving to be just as strong a fashion hub as London, with the potential for even stronger growth.
Meanwhile, Leeds is building a tech hub to rival San Francisco. With Leeds Digital Festival enjoying its fourth successful year, and Leeds City Council pumping in £2m of investment into supporting tech start-ups in a new flagship building in the city centre, it seems that Leeds is the place for northern tech talent.
Hot on the heels of Manchester and Leeds is Newcastle, a city that has attracted the attention of influential accelerators Ignite100, who has set up one of its 3 UK bases in this vibrant city. Not only is moving to the north cheaper, it can also help start-ups gain vital investment opportunities. It’s a good time to do business in the north, and things can only get better.
Liverpool is another city to watch, recently named as the fastest growing cluster in the digital technology industry, for which it has its strong reputation in the gaming development industry to thank. Liverpool-based games tech companies have worked with industry giants such as Sony, Nintendo, EA Inc, and Disney.
Northern cities are passionate about nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs but encouraging a culture of communication and collaboration. The large number of accessible coworking spaces available throughout our cities give northern innovators the opportunity to develop like their businesses like never before.
Boosting the northern economy cannot be achieved unless we all pull together as a region. Recently elected mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham is leading the charge to keep the Northern Powerhouse alive.
“There are signs in Greater Manchester that devolution is starting to work,” he said. “We’re doing more to get people back to work but overall there is a real danger that the Northern Powerhouse could be about to fizzle out.”
An increase of devolved power in the north has resulted in a stronger spirit of collaboration between regions, with major cities like Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield, and Hull all speaking with one voice – a voice that demands to be heard.
“Westminster has failed the North of England and that is over decades under governments of all colours,” stated Burnham. Mayors and council leaders are speaking up to demand more from Westminster, however if you want a job done right – you do it yourself. It’s up to the north to help the north.
Re-Powering the Northern Powerhouse
With political uncertainty continuing for the foreseeable future, it looks like we, as a region, must pull together to reignite the Northern Powerhouse. Although this is a project that Westminster has allowed to dwindle to embers, among the ashes is hope.
And it shows in interest from big hitters. Digital giant Amazon, for example, is set to open a Manchester office, bringing with it hundreds of job opportunities in the technology and research fields, among many others. Meanwhile, the north is also proving to be a great base for the FinTech sector, with AccessPay, Zuto, and Profile Financial all experiencing strong growth.
The media landscape is quite literally changing also, with the BBC and ITV successfully moving to MediaCityUK, joining over 250 media and digital businesses in the freshly revamped area of Salford Quays. In addition, Channel 4 has recently confirmed that their northern base of office will be in the city of Leeds, offering even more media opportunities for northern creatives.
When seeking to repower the powerhouse, one thing is clear: shouting our successes from the rooftops can only be a good thing. Despite rivalry from London, Brexit looming large, and a lack of action from Westminster, one thing’s for certain: the north is very much open for business. And investors, business heavyweights, and our people all know it.
As a business that is proudly based in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, we are proud of our place in the Northern Powerhouse. To find out more about how we can boost your business, help you with your digital transformation, and protect your systems online, please get in touch with our dedicated team.