Leeds city centre. Picture by Tim Green

Leeds city centre. Picture by Tim Green, Flickr

Chancellor George Osborne has made it clear he’d like to see a “Northern Powerhouse” to rival the south east.

Former Craven Herald editor Matt Cornish looks at the plans and what it could mean for Craven businesses.



With the dust settling from the election, more noise is being made about greater investment in northern business.

With the economy so heavily weighted toward London, and in particular the financial sector, there’s a clear need to help the North. And it’s not just the traditional manufacturing industry, but also the growing number of technology, science, service and tourism businesses.

Stockton South MP James Wharton has been appointed as a minister for the “Northern Powerhouse”, but what does it actually mean and what benefits could it bring?

Well at the moment, it’s more of an idea than a concrete plan, but it does show the government has a strong desire to redress the economic balance between the North and South East economies.

Changes are afoot, however, and the first major step forward will be in Greater Manchester when it gets an elected mayor in 2017. This will give it greater economic independence like London enjoys, with control of £5bn of public money, and a further £2bn from central government.

And this could serve as blueprint for other parts of the North.

The main ethos behind the “Northern Powerhouse” is to get the big cities up here acting more as a collective force. Currently, there are a number of strong economic pockets in the north, but there are also areas of deprivation and poor employment levels.

A useful measure of the economic sectors is GVA (Gross Value Added), which is the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy.

Currently London’s gross value added (GVA) output is 2.1 times that of Yorkshire, two times higher than the North West and 2.3 times higher than the North East.

But by getting these areas working together, the ideas is to increase their GVA and hopefully shrink the gap.

Chancellor George Osborne, on announcing his plans for the “northern powerhouse” last year, said: “The cities of the North are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.”

And in his first post-election speech, Mr Osborne made it clear he intends to change the “old model” of running everything from London.

The change will probably have to be led by the major cities rather than outlying districts like Craven, as Mr Osborne suggested only cities that elected their own mayor would be given control of local transport, housing, skills and healthcare. And it will also be up to the major cities and areas to approach the Chancellor direct, as he insists he will not “force” the changes on people who don’t want them.

However, if the plans are to move forward, there would be clear knock-on benefits for business across the whole of the North, even in outlying areas such as the Skipton and Ripon constituency.

For example improved transport links will enable cities to compete together as a single economy, rather than against each another.

There are plans to increase rail times between Leeds and Manchester from 49 minutes to 30 minutes; from Leeds to Sheffield from 40 minutes to 30 minutes; and from Newcastle to Liverpool from two hours 48 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes. If that happens, doing business between the cities suddenly becomes more practical.

Add to that the rollout of faster broadband speeds we’re currently seeing, and the chance of a more prosperous North become more likely.

It won’t happen overnight, but business across the Skipton and Ripon area will need to work together, organise themselves and possibly work closely with Leeds and/or Bradford to make sure they’re not left behind.

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