I started out approaching the election with a feeling, for the first time, of being polarised.
As a managing director of a law firm whose flagship office is in Leeds and as an individual, my connection with the North of England is strong. I believe so much in the North and its businesses that I agreed to becoming a voice for company directors on policy through the Institute of Directors.
I am only one individual that is looking to make a difference; many before me, including the media, have tried to amplify the North’s voice. So at such a critical time, why does it feel as if the North remains unheard?
As the political parties unveil their manifestos, I remain disheartened and alienated. Yet there is a plan for the North which does bring me hope; the NP11’s manifesto for the North which sets out the direction we need to take and marks the North coming together with one voice to tell the incoming Government what our ambition is for a thriving Northern Powerhouse.
The five key focuses of the manifesto are:
1. Local control of education, training and skills
2. A formal Treasury commitment to rebalance the North/South economy
3. A transport budget for the North to deliver on all key objectives
4. Freedom to lead export growth with greater investment
5. Backing the North to lead the green industrial revolution.
What we probably have to assume is that very little help is going to be extended our way in the foreseeable future. Although Brexit and trade agreements must be high on the agenda, it should not be the only thing. Yet we in the North need attention now in order to thrive, heal and grow.
We can do this from our own efforts – that is clear by just looking around and seeing who we have attracted in respect of business and what we have achieved. Just five months ago, most of the top politicians came out with statements supporting the campaign for Power Up the North, making admissions that something urgently needs to be done. From where I am sitting, the focus that would provide the greatest assistance is to address the issues with the infrastructure.
In August this year, the thinktank IPPR North found the gap between London and Yorkshire and Humber for the government’s planned transport spending was £2,389 per head. Londoners can expect £3,636 per head to be spent on transport whilst those in Yorkshire and Humber will receive the least of all English regions, with only a paltry £511.00 per head spend.
Although the North West is well connected by airports, this is not enough. What is needed, as reported by CECA (Civil Engineering Contractors Association), is a network rail for the ‘Northern Hub’ which they claim “…will create £4bn worth of wider economic benefits to the region and a £4 boost to the economy for every £1 spent.”
From all accounts, it is crucial to get High Speed rail into our country’s infrastructure and see it as a necessity.
There is an argument to say we should ignore for now the North/South divide and debate, and unite as one United Kingdom to ensure and enjoy excellent trade relations, making it easier for those wanting to inward invest to be able to travel within this glorious country.
The knock-on effect from the investment in the infrastructure of the North is how it will contribute to the creation of regional opportunities in terms of retaining skilled workers and up-skilling
What I don’t want to see in the coming years is an even greater divide between the North and South. As I review the political manifestos and listen to music of yesteryear, I wonder, is it time for a revolution?