John Leech MP has hailed the Government for allowing Manchester to ‘flourish’ after the city’s new £476million Growth Deal was given the green light on Thursday.
As a part of his visit to Stockport, Nick Clegg signed off on the agreement as well as meeting with local schoolchildren, politicians and business leaders as a part of his Northern Futures campaign.
The Deputy Prime Minister was imploring northerners to give him the ideas to build a ‘northern powerhouse’ to challenge London – and Withington MP Leech believes the campaign and deal pave the way for debate on more devolved powers for Manchester.
“I think we’ve got to continue with the debate about Manchester’s position in the UK,” he told MM.
“This government has been very kind to Manchester in terms of the investment in infrastructure, whether it be the transport infrastructure, whether it be the regional growth fund, whether it be the city deal for Manchester.
“And we’ve got to get the message across that Manchester has been allowed to flourish under this government and all too often the narrative is ‘there’s cuts to this and cuts to that’. Manchester has had a massive opportunity.
“Even the chief executive of the city council Sir Howard Bernstein talked about the city deal being a game changer and we’ve got to get that message across.”
The Deputy Prime Minister also signed the £476.7million Greater Manchester Growth Deal, which promises to create up to 5,000 jobs, allow more than 75,000 homes to be built and generate up to £80million of additional in public and private investment in the area.
Mr Clegg had insisted the North can compete with the capital – as well as other mega-cities like ‘Frankfurt, Shanghai and Rio’ – and Mr Leech believes Manchester is the jewel in the northern crown.
“There is always going to be a certain level of focus on London because it the economic powerhouse of the UK,” he said.
“Manchester is the economic powerhouse of the north and things like high speed rail and things like city deals and regional growth fund gives Manchester massive opportunity to grow and create employment.
“And I think as we broaden our infrastructure you will see Manchester growing particularly over the next decade and it must do, it has to.”
As part of the day, ministers also announced £6.4million of funding for North West firms through the Regional Growth Fund, creating 252 high-skilled jobs in the life sciences sector – which Mr Clegg identified as Manchester’s speciality.
When questioned by a MediaCityUK chief on investment in the creative and digital sector, Nick Clegg praised the Growth Deal’s impact on the creative and digital sector – and said more specialisation could be on the way for other northern cities.
Mr Clegg said: “The Growth Deal was a choice taken here locally. And the combined authorities in the Greater Manchester area are now using the greater resources that were granted to them to promote that sector [creative and digital].
“If everyone tries to become the world’s centre in nanotechnology, for example, then no one will.
“We do also need to have a grown-up conversation between local authorities and everybody needs to work together and accept there needs to be a division of labour in terms of strengths.”
And Withington MP Leech says his comments hit the mark.
He told MM: “I think his comments about the need for powers to Manchester and about freedom for Manchester to spend Manchester’s money went down pretty well and he got a few tough questions from students in Stockport too.”