Next PM warned Northern Powerhouse is ‘non-negotiable’
The next Prime Minister has been warned that the Northern Powerhouse is “non-negotiable” and that the tech sector needs to be a global force.
That was the no-nonsense message from Henri Murison who, as the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, reports directly to former Chancellor George Osborne, who is seen as the architect of the concept.
The Northern Powerhouse was launched five years ago to rebalance the UK’s economy and become less reliant on London and the South East.
With Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt coming to the end of their contest to be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Murison said there was no going back now.
He told BusinessCloud: “The Northern Powerhouse has become a non-negotiable part of being Conservative leader and a non-negotiable part of being the Prime Minister. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is out and proud for the Northern Powerhouse and the Northern agenda.
“The Conservatives can never win an overall majority in this country unless they can make an impact in the North of England.
“Northern Powerhouse has just had its fifth birthday. The people who are standing to be next Prime Minister are committed to the principle of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is a £39 billion infrastructure project which George Osborne only came up with five years ago.
“The Labour Party and Conservative Party are committed to the North and with Mayors like Andy Burnham in Manchester, Steve Rotherham in Liverpool, Ben Houchen in Teeside and Dan Jarvis in Sheffield, you’ve got real advocates for the North.”
Murison, who was appointed in 2017, explained the role of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. “We’re there to drive forward the north’s ambitions,” he said. “We’re making the case to government and working with senior business leaders to make sure we keep on pushing forwards with rebalancing our country’s economy which means that the north, by 2050, will be as productive as London and the South East is today.
“Digital is one of the four key areas of Northern growth. 25 per cent of the North’s economy is in digital, manufacturing, energy and health innovation. They drive the rest of the economy.
“There’s this concept that we should specialise and it’s not a problem to specialise. When you think about the North, where we should be is in a global environment. Our cities need to have some commonality. There is not a major city in the North of England that doesn’t have an important tech sector.”
Murison was previously a Cabinet member on Newcastle City Council and said collaboration was key in the digital space.
“What we need to do it is get that tech sector to collaborate,” he explained.
“What we see is FinTech businesses in Manchester and Leeds working collaboratively. You get people who used to work in financial services for big traditional players in Leeds go up to Durham to start Atom Bank. All the tech is sourced locally and it’s really transforming the North’s economy.
“You will have individual places with a particular reputation. Digital health in Leeds for instance is very strong. You’ve got real strengths around eCommerce for example. When you’ve got businesses like Boohoo based there, of course it’s going to be known for that.
“We as a Northern Powerhouse need to work out what our global play is. Our global play is ensuring that around the world we’re seen as a destination for choice for tech investment and the next industrial revolution.”