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.