Originally posted 6th November 2014
The Northern Futures summit was hosted by the Centre for Cities today and was an opportunity for civic leaders, businesses, residents and other stakeholders to discuss ideas on how to create an economic core in the North of England that’s globally competitive.
The day involved the pitching of nine ideas contributed to the Northern Futures team over the past four months, along with keynote speeches from Jim O’Neill, Chair of the City Growth Commission, and Prof. Ed Glaeser of Harvard University.
Five quick points from the day:
- Enhancing skills was probably the most cited and widely agreed on theme of the day, both at the level of schools (importance of teaching quality) and employers (increasing demand for skills uplift). There was also a recognition of entrepreneurial skills as key drivers of growth.
- Transport improvements, largely in terms of road/rail infrastructure and services, received popular support among participants, but there were questions raised whether they could be treated as fundamental to growth. Local connections within city-regions and inter-city connections across the North were both viewed as high priorities.
- There was no clear consensus on the importance of decentralisation to economic growth in the North, although there was support from councils for greater autonomy in an environment of budgetary pressures. There was recognition that the Greater Manchester agreement represents the thin-end of the wedge. There was a sense that a lot of the ideas are not especially new (i.e. references to The Northern Way), but the opportunity for cities to have greater control of their economic growth was seen as a new development.
- The pitched ideas have implications across a range of scales, from local empowerment, selling the North as the economic alternative to London at the national level, and calls for cities to work together to be relevant at the global level. There was also debate on whether the greater emphasis on cities leading growth would be at the expense of rural areas and smaller towns.
- This is just the beginning. The day was a success in terms of bringing together many civic leaders and policy professionals, but there was also recognition that the audience did not represent the diversity of the population at large, and that change would be gradual. The call from two local Year 13 students at the beginning of the event to be “youthfully ambitious” was frequently referenced throughout the day and this is fitting given that a lot of the proposed structures and collaborations are at a youthful stage of development. The Chancellor’s Autumn statement would appear to be the next opportunity to hear next steps ahead of the run-up to the 2015 general election.
Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (2014) Northern Futures Summit Draft Communiqué, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/northern-futures (retrieved 6 November 2014)