The part of Britain whose best days lie aheadby Caroline Flint / August 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
I’d rather be in Yorkshire The north is known for industry, but we are equally proud of its cultural heritage: the Brontës, Lowry and the Beatles. Our sporting heritage is equally rich. A worldwide fan-base follows the north’s Premier League football teams; Rugby league was born in Huddersfield; and the Great North Run remains the world’s most friendly half-marathon. But the UK economy is over-dependent on London—the north has lagged behind for too long. Four years ago, the Northern Powerhouse brought together a collection of northern cities close enough to work together and put aside regional rivalries. If the north can raise its game, it will be good for UK plc—but to achieve new jobs, growth and investment, we need some big changes. Take transport. Northern commuters and families have faced weeks of rail chaos. Over one million working hours were lost, and train operators warned that the disruption could last until November. But until the north’s railways improve—frequency, capacity and journey times—increased productivity will be out of reach. The MPs of the Northern Powerhouse All-Party Parliamentary Group will be lobbying government for further rail devolution. Transport for the North was established for this role. Now it needs real powers. And in the longer-term, we need Northern Powerhouse Rail connecting our urban centres to a high-speed rail network, beginning with a fast Hull-Manchester-Liverpool line, which could be up and running before HS2. Grasping economic opportunities also requires skills. Our recent, “Educating the North” report revealed that disadvantaged northern pupils are one whole GCSE grade behind their London counterparts. We are calling for the government to invest £300m to ensure every child is school-ready. Work-based education—modern apprenticeships—are central to our ambitions. A well-equipped workforce is crucial to attracting companies from across the globe to choose the north to develop their business. Our new age requires information and data, smart production and integrated robotics to raise productivity. The modern manufacturing worker will not just repeat one task many times, they will be a decision-maker getting the most from the technology. The north’s love of sport, culture and music is matched by its ancient heritage from Hadrian’s Wall to Cuthbert’s Holy Island; from Ivar the Boneless’s conquest of York to Wordsworth’s Lake District. Towns and villages are rightly proud of their great histories and community identities. A rich life awaits anyone who wants to be part of the north’s future success. The region’s best days may still lie ahead. The MPs and civic leaders of the Northern Powerhouse are determined to make the most of it.