BUYOUT KING Andrew Cope has thrown his weight behind plans to create a Northern Powerhouse and called on the Government to make the most of cheap borrowing costs to fund new transport infrastructure.
Mr Cope, who is one of Yorkshire’s most successful entrepreneurs, said the scheme needs stronger political advocacy in Westminster and raised concerns that parochial attitudes could stifle the potential to create an alternative to London.
The identity is there. It just needs some balls to make it happen.
He described the proposed high-speed rail connection between Leeds and Manchester is “a no-brainer” and essential to the success of the Powerhouse vision.
Mr Cope said greater interconnectedness would bring more people and businesses to the region, attracted by the ability to set up a head office in a hub like Manchester and live in a leafy place in Harrogate or York.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “This is like a field that has not been ploughed for a long time. But the soil is good, the weather is fine, it just hasn’t been developed. That’s the North.
“Everything is there, everything is ready. You have got people, you have momentum. It just requires the spark to create a vision. The identity is there. It just needs some balls to make it happen. The politicians need to be shamed into doing it.”
He said senior northern MPs George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband should step up their fundraising efforts for the infrastructure investment and stop playing party political games in Westminster.
Mr Cope added: “I went to Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago. They are building a leisure park there. It is 10 miles by 17 miles, as big as Birmingham.
“They have raised $50bn already to fund development. We can’t even build a railway from Leeds to Manchester. It is pathetic really.”
Mr Cope led five management buyouts at Zenith, transforming the Leeds-based business into a major force in the fleet management sector.
He said the North “has got it all but needs to join it up a bit and... get the money behind it.”