Big names in frame for Northern conference

GM Mayor Andy Burnham
GM Mayor Andy Burnham
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Further major figures from Northern politics and business have been added to the roster for the Great Northern Conference next month.

The Great Northern Conference 2019 will be held on February 26 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds to unite the Northern Powerhouse by bringing together all parts of the region to speak with one voice.

Among those due to appear include Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry, University of Manchester vice chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell, LNER managing director David Horne, Elaine Bowker, chief executive Liverpool City College, CYBG chief executive David Duffy, Siemens CEO Juergen Maier, Network Rail’s Sir Peter Hendy, NorthInvest director Helen Oldham and Peter Dowd, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

They will be joined by Northern Powerhouse architects George Osborne and Lord O’Neill and the event will be presented by respected broadcaster Ranvir Singh.

Organisers also expect to announce a senior cabinet minister in the next few weeks as well as other local and national leaders in business and politics.

The event will focus on tackling the gap in educational attainment between the North and the rest of the UK, ensuring that skilled workers can be attracted, trained and retained, increasing health outcomes and building on capabilities of advanced manufacturing, energy, digital and health. It is being organised after new data showed the North-South divide is not closing.

Figures obtained by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership show that, while a number of Northern regions have performed well in the past year, many of the North’s key areas are lagging behind the national average when it comes to the productivity of their workforces.

City regions in the Leeds, York, Humber and Greater Manchester areas all showed growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) per head to be lower than the national average of 2.9 per cent.

The news comes after Mr Berry revealed at the weekend that Whitehall was considering a proposed new department for the North of England and he advocated the idea of it having its own secretary of state to drive forward transport, education and devolution in the region, using funds raised by its 19 million citizens.

Mr Berry also suggested tax rates could be set independently in the North. Speaking at the launch of the conference, he said: “Colleagues from the Government and I will be speaking at the Great Northern Conference and helping lead debate to ensure we are answering the big question of how to drive Northern productivity.

“As the most recent figures show, many areas have been increasing productivity, but as we improve transport connectivity across the Pennines and invest through the Industrial Strategy, this progress must be accelerated.

“This is not just about a greater and ambitious North, but building a greater country.”

The event is sponsored by CYBG, LNER, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and The Yorkshire Post’s parent company JPIMedia.

Tickets are available at www.greatnorthernpowerhouse.co.uk/