Autumn Statement was good news for north ‘powerhouse’
IN the first minute of his Autumn Statement the Chancellor mentioned the northern powerhouse and his commitment to strengthening our regions.
The establishment of a northern sovereign wealth fund funded by the proceeds of shale gas extraction has the potential to provide significant funds for investment, but only if government moves to support the establishment and growth of this industry.
It still has many arguments to win over the public and business in this space but, if this fund is to be successful, the Chancellor must do much more to calm concerns over this new form of energy and allow potential companies to begin extraction.
Earlier in the week we saw the announcement of the £15bn investment in the strategic road network where the M60 and M62 will see substantial investment, as well as greater access to the new superport at Liverpool.
Commuters and business people across the region will be delighted to hear that the next franchises for Northern and TransPennine Express will include provision for modern rolling stock to replace the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains.
If the Government’s northern powerhouse is ever to be successful, the speed and quality of public transport across the north must be radically improved, so we welcome the announcement of a comprehensive transport strategy for the north, working with Transport for the North, to include options, costs and a delivery timetable for HS3, and its interim report in the next four months.
Greater Manchester benefits directly from two other key announcements. The £235m investment in to the Sir Henry Royce Institute of Advanced Materials, to be headquartered in Manchester, builds on the existing success of our universities in this space.
An additional £113m will also be invested in an algorithmic and big data research facility in Daresbury.
Finally, government has agreed to £78m towards the funding of a new theatre and performance space in Manchester on the site of the old Granada studios, further reinforcing Greater Manchester’s leading position, not just in financial, creative and manufacturing businesses but as an arts and cultural hub.
Overall, this was a positive statement from the Chancellor, but our future growth prospects will rely on seeing less timidity from government on investment support.
We will assess the detail of the autumn statement over the coming days and will, over the coming years, ensure that we hold government to account on behalf of our members on the delivery of its promises.