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Plugging in the Northern Powerhouse

12 Oct 2015

As funding packages are eagerly awaited for the government’s Northern Powerhouse project, CN looks North by North West and North East and finds a divergence in approaches


Chancellor George Osborne promised his summer Budget would “go further in building the Northern Powerhouse”. Destinations in the North now await detail of the proposed funding packages geared to rebalance growth across the regions.

Many of the infrastructure and sectoral projects will affect the meetings industry, so it is no wonder our destination friends in the North are keen to position themselves to make best use of the packages when they do emerge from Whitehall.

Creating a single economic hub comprised of cities like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield would, the theory goes, join together to create a ‘powerhouse’ to rival London. The ‘first among equals’ in the Northern Powerhouse is clearly Manchester, with leaders across 10 Greater Manchester councils set to devolve further powers to a city which already has a Mayor (a condition for receiving extra government funding).

The Chancellor has said he is working on deals with the Sheffield and Liverpool City Regions and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities on far reaching devolution of power in return for the creation of directly elected mayors.

Since talk of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ began, the biggest headline has been £30m of funding for Transport for the North, along with Oyster-style ticketing across the region. John Allan, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses said his organisation was “wholly behind the idea of a Northern Powerhouse”, although he flagged much was still to be done and clear plans for a consistent stream of work were needed.

The prime minister promoted the Northern Powerhouse concept in South East Asia recently, heading an inaugural trade mission.Business Secretary Sajid Javid took 62 companies to the region from the North and returned with contract wins from Singapore and Malaysia.

While the meetings industry per se was not singled out, it is clear sectors that are prominent for events can benefit from the initiative. The Chancellor has committed £20m of funding to the ‘Health North’ initiative, designed to build on the North’s strengths in health science. However, unlike Manchester, the North East is lagging in terms of securing a devolution settlement, despite big achievements made by the NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, where efforts to secure events for the region resulted in a £11.6m boost last year.

Among the wins are the National Tourism Awards, Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, The British Society of Gerontology Conference 2015 and The 13th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference. Paul Szomoru, head of business tourism at the bureau, says business tourism strategy focuses on three key sectors: Creative & Digital, Marine & Offshore, and Science and Health – “all areas where we have economic strengths and academic excellence at our universities”.

Business tourism in Newcastle Gateshead generates a GVA impact of £77m and supports 1,680 full-time equivalent jobs. That is a powerhouse, and hopefully the North East will find access to funding, mayor or no mayor.

Growing business Visit England is leading the delivery of the £10m government funded Northern Tourism Growth Programme, working closely with VisitBritain and partner destinations from across the North. The programme aims to grow leisure and business visitors to the region and deliver an additional 2m visitor nights to the North of England equating to £177m in international visitor spend and facilitate the creation of 3,280 jobs. A range of activity is being developed and will be announced in coming months. The North, for this purpose is defined as the old Government Office regions of Yorkshire and Humberside, North West and North East.

Source: Conference News


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