I NEED the readers of The Yorkshire Post to help me come up with a plan to put the North of England in the driving seat of the British economy.
Whether you’re a teacher, business owner, cab driver or academic, we want to hear your suggestions.
That’s why I have launched a new project called Northern Futures, where I am looking for the answer to a very specific but vitally important question: how do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?
I very much welcome the One North report published last week by local leaders of five of the North’s greatest cities, including Sheffield and Leeds, who came together to set out ambitious proposals for a multi-billion pound improvement to transport in the region. This is exactly the kind of ambition I am looking for in Northern Futures.
If you register for a new website we have set up, http://northernfutures.dialogue-app.com/, you will be able to take part in the conversation and help us find the answers. I have asked some of the country’s leading experts to make a contribution, and I hope as many of you as possible will share your own views. In the autumn, the Northern Futures Summit will discuss the best ideas and come up with recommendations.
This is part of something I have been talking about for years now: rebalancing the economy away from London. In July 2014, the national economy reached a turning point, finally getting back to the size it was before the financial crisis struck in 2008. The question now is how we make sure the whole country is geared up to take advantage of that, as markets around the world recover.
There’s much we’ve already done to make that happen. Through our £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund, we’ve already given businesses across the region a boost, with around £40m in Leeds alone, helping to create over a thousand new jobs. And we’ve committed more than £21bn to phase two of HS2, which will link the network to Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester and bring customers and suppliers across the UK even closer.
But we’ve also made a fundamental change to how we drive growth across the UK. That started with the announcement of City Deals – where we took control out of the hands of Whitehall bureaucrats, and gave more power to local leaders and businesses to do what they know best: drive growth in their area. In Leeds, for example, that meant the best part of a billion pounds for vital new infrastructure, as well as projects to give the city’s young people the skills they need to take advantage of the new jobs to come.
And we went even further this summer, offering every region in England the chance to secure investment through a local Growth Deal to power the projects they wanted most – whether that was the £1bn transport fund for Leeds, or the £50m grants to local businesses in Sheffield.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of what Leeds, Sheffield and the other great northern cities can do to drive success for their people and for the whole of the United Kingdom. Now I want your help to uncover what more we can do together to build a strong future for northern cities.