The Northern Powerhouse is to receive a £556 million increase in funding, which will be specifically focussed on enhancing science and business performance in the region. Despite the exact proposals for the distribution of funds being currently unconfirmed, a number of different projects have been unveiled. Specifically, the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund will receive £10 million to support local businesses, Blackpool will receive a state-of-the-art conference centre and hotel to boost the town’s economy and conference capabilities and a manufacturing park will be constructed in the Sunderland area, which will help to create over 5,000 jobs. Investment will also be injected into the Goole intermodal terminal, which will provide an integrated transport facility for business by combining rail, sea, motorway and inland waterway routes into one site.
Funds will be distributed widely across the north, with the North West receiving the greatest amount of money. Of the major cities, Manchester is set to receive £130.1 million, Liverpool £72 million, Leeds £67.5 million and Sheffield £37.8 million. The investment comes as the government has revealed its plans for the future of industry in the UK in January’s green paper, “Building Our Industrial Strategy”. Part of a “Plan for Britain” and following on from the referendum result – which the prime minister’s foreword describes as “an instruction to change the way our country works … forever” − the green paper looks to address the challenges of building on the UK’s industrial strengths, closing the gap between the UK’s best-performing businesses and regions and underperformers – part of a plan to “get all parts of the country firing on all cylinders”, making the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or develop a business. A key part of the strategy encompasses the chance for businesses to strike “new sector deals”, which will provide the opportunity for businesses to approach the government with proposals to increase productivity.
The green paper identifies “Ten Pillars” of the new industrial strategy, one of these being “Driving Growth Across the Whole Country”, an approach which is intended to be underpinned by focussing spending decisions on the improvement of strategic infrastructure, education, research and innovation – all of this in the wider context of wider reform of local institutional leadership. The green paper is clear that the national productivity challenge – the UK underperforms relative to key competitor economies by up to 20% − cannot be addressed without ensuring that the country as a whole, and the north in particular, is performing well relative to its peer regions in the UK and more widely. Despite initial doubts about the May government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, Building Our Industrial Strategy cements the Northern Powerhouse at the heart of the UK’s national and regional economic policy.