Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief Ian Kelly rejects calls to scrap Northern Powerhouse

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 16 Jun 2017

The chief executive of Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce has poured cold water on calls by a leading think tank to do away with the Northern Powerhouse.

Stephen Purvis, chairman of the think tank Policy North, is suggesting it is time for the Government to bring down the axe on the collaboration, replacing it with an "ambitious, global policy approach for the north of England".

The Northern Powerhouse was the brainchild of chancellor George Osborne who, speaking in 2014, said it would be "a collection of northern cities sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world."

But Mr Purvis believes a fresh approach is now needed in light of significant changes in the political landscape since its concept, including most notably Brexit.

He said: "The Northern Powerhouse is over - the pet project of a former chancellor that is facing the wrong way in post-Brexit Britain.

"The importance of improving links, both physically and metaphorically, between northern cities and between the north and south has been overplayed.

"There are no natural historic trade connections between the north west and the north east and while closer collaboration between the north west and Yorkshire is positive, it cannot be the blueprint for the entire north, especially in post-Brexit Britain.

"With 44 per cent of adults in the north of England admitting they have never heard of the Northern Powerhouse, it is clear that this policy has little substance and we need a fresh, more imaginative approach.

"The resignation of minister Andrew Percy is the final nail in the coffin of the Northern Powerhouse. The United Kingdom's departure from the European Union provides a unique opportunity for the north to find a powerful role in a truly global Britain with increased international influence."

Mr Purvis said businesses in the north have told Policy North that they need a new vision that "opens up networks and connections with growing economies, such as the Gulf states", as well as new industries including financial technology and biotech.

"Leaving the EU and unshackling ourselves from the single market and the customs union means Britain can forge new trade agreements," he said.

"Establishing a free trade zone in the north of England is one of the huge opportunities Brexit offers. This could generate £12 billion a year for the north and create more than 600,000 jobs."

But Dr Kelly is not convinced.

He said: "There is a danger here of pulling up the roots of the plant just to see if it is growing. There are issues with the Northern Powerhouse, but I would prefer to see its effectiveness given a reboot, rather than the whole thing being scrapped.

"Mr Purvis has some very strong, black and white opinions on the Northern Powerhouse, some of which have a clear colonel of truth about them.

"But in the real world of working with government, the better option, in my opinion, is to get the Northern Powerhouse into a better position."

Councillor Martin Mancey, Hull City Council's portfolio holder for economic regeneration, criticises Mr Purvis' "vague concept of the north".

He said: "We need to have less talking about vague visions and more focus on delivery of tangible transformational improvements.

"A lot of effort is bring put into creating such visions, and there is an awful lot of talking shops, but what we getting on now with creating change, to re-balance the economy between north and south."



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