Nick Clegg has echoed George Osborne’s calls for a ‘northern powerhouse’ – and wants Mancunians to tell him how to do it.
The Liberal Democrats leader also suggested Leeds and neighbouring Sheffield could also get on board to build an economic centre to rival southern juggernaut London – as suggested by the Chancellor in Manchester last month.
The Deputy Prime Minister urged people to contact the Government with ideas on how to boost growth in Manchester and called on northerners to ‘unite’ for the greater good.
“We’ve also got to be realistic that the best ideas aren’t going to come from Whitehall. Nobody knows more about what local economies need than the people who actually live and work day in and day out in the communities themselves,” he said in a speech to the International Business Festival in Leeds.
“So today, I’m launching the next phase in our drive to generate the best ideas for stronger local growth with our new Northern Futures Project.
“This is an open call to our local leaders, businesses and experts in housing, transport, planning, science and education across the North of England to answer this fundamental 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 and regions in the world?
“It’s time for us to put aside outdated local rivalries. As we’ve seen with the Local Enterprise Partnerships in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, united we’re stronger.”
Mr Clegg suggested that the controversial HS2 train link could stop in the centre of Sheffield – the city that includes his own constituency – and stress the Government’s existing measures to fuel an economic revival.
“For years, I’ve argued that Leeds, along with Sheffield and Manchester, can and should form part of a northern hub, driving economic investment and growth across the North of England,” Mr Clegg said.
“These are three of Britain’s biggest cities all within 45 miles of one another.
“Together, they can offer investors access to flexible, highly skilled workforces, world-class universities with cutting-edge research expertise, a strong industrial base and clusters of innovative businesses in high-growth sectors such as precision manufacturing, creative and professional services, healthcare, retail and green industries.
“It is why, as part of our consultation process, I and the rest of Government are open to considering possible city centre locations for HS2 in Sheffield, if that’s the best solution for Yorkshire.
“I also welcome the Chancellor’s commitment last week to a new high-speed rail connection between Leeds and Manchester.”
Mr Clegg will say growth deals are being announced next week to empower local leaders and give them access to a £12billion pot of funding over the next six years to create jobs, build homes and kick-start economic projects.
And Mr Clegg instructed the local leaders to get in touch to speed up Britain’s recovery from recession.
“We want to hear your views, your opinions and ideas about how we best work together to strengthen the global competitiveness of our great northern giants like Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester and power an economic revival across the North,” he said.
“If you’ve got a plan to do that, send us the details at the email address [email protected]
“Over the summer, we’ll be looking at the suggestions we receive. I then plan to host an economic summit in the North this autumn to discuss how we take forward the best ideas, bringing together the influential voices who can make them happen.”
Image courtesy of Liberal Democrats / Alex Folkes and Fishnik Photography, with thanks.