What is, ”The Northern Power House” about? – John Mothersole – 16th February 2015.

John Mothersole

We were very for­tu­nate today to have John Mothersole, Chief Executive of the Sheffield Council, to speak to us on this topic.This phrase has been ban­died about for months now and we have asked ourselves whether it is just one of those polit­ical phrases used by politi­cians to pacify the elect­or­ate in the North of England. Well we had an excel­lent visit last Wednesday to the Advanced Manufacturing  Research Centre set up in part­ner­ship between the Sheffield University, Boeing, Rolls Royce and Airbus, plus approx­im­ately sev­enty other paying com­pan­ies. It was the brain child of Adrian Allen and Professor Keith Ridgway of the Sheffield University, and is a fine example of what the Northern Power House is all about.

John said that in the 1900s London’s con­tri­bu­tion to the country’s wealth was about 20% and that the Northern cities  con­tri­bu­tion was over 27%. However since the de-industrialisation of the North some twenty years ago and the emphasis that London should be a world fin­ance centre, the situ­ation has been reversed, and London’s eco­nomy has grown 1% more year by year over the last eight years and  is bigger now than the eight core Northern cities put together.

John com­pared the coun­try to a big cor­por­a­tion with many divi­sions where most of the divi­sions are loos­ing money and only one is cre­at­ing wealth, but over­heat­ing in the pro­cess. He said what would the dir­ect­ors of the cor­por­a­tion do if they knew they couldn’t close the other divi­sions down? Would they pump more resources into the already over­heat­ing divi­sion or would they invest in the divi­sions that were under per­form­ing?

The idea of the ‘Northern Power House’ is to link the major cities such as Manchester Leeds and Sheffield together by improv­ing the infra­struc­ture so that they can easily work together, com­bin­ing the expert­ise of each area, making it an attract­ive pro­pos­i­tion for for­eign investors to come to the region. John made the point that the dis­tance between Leeds and Manchester is 30 miles shorter than the ‘District’ line on the under­ground, where trains run every few minutes, and busi­ness men don’t think twice about com­mut­ing. The trains between Leeds and Manchester run every hour. This has to change.

He cited an example of a for­eign investor want­ing to build a very large fact­ory but required the local coun­cil to build the road. When the local coun­cil said that they couldn’t afford to build the road, the investor went away. In his example the coun­cil couldn’t afford to build the road because cent­ral gov­ern­ment would be taking all the rev­enue earned from the fact­ory. This has got to change.

John said that for the ‘Northern Power House’ to work his golden tri­angle of cities, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester must all pull together for the common good and con­sider them­selves as sub­urbs of each other.

When asked about HS2 he com­pared it with the M1 saying that 50 or 60 years ago industry prob­ably said what good would it be? Look at it now. He then went on to say that some­body remarked that when the M1 suf­fers from over­crowding they just put in another lane and that can’t be done on the rail­ways. His reply to that was that using the M1 as a com­par­ison, we haven’t built it yet. He also said that put­ting in the new line would relieve the pres­sure on the already over­loaded system.

Billions are being spent invest­ing in the North and change will come, and is coming, but our atti­tudes have to change as well. We are noted for being invent­ive and cap­able of high tech innov­a­tions and that is what has to be exploited for the good of the coun­try.

John’s talk was very instruct­ive and easy to follow. The logic behind the prin­ciple of ‘The Northern Power House’ is simple; we just have to rely on suc­cess­ive gov­ern­ments to follow it through.

For fur­ther inform­a­tion on the Northern Powerhouse click here.