24 January, 2008 – Northern Way welcomes new evidence of the economic potential of the North
The Northern Way has published a major new study of the characteristics of the Northern economy, highlighting the opportunities to reduce the prosperity gap between the regions, and challenging traditional perceptions of the North-South divide.
‘The Northern Connection’, produced by a team bringing together the Institute for Political and Economic Governance and the Centre for Urban Policy Studies at the University of Manchester, offers important new insights into the economic links between cities and regions and about the continuing and increasing importance of the key urban centres in driving growth and development.
The North is moving from a geography suited for an industrial age, towards patterns of development which exploit new opportunities in a global economy. The report concludes that the economic prosperity of the North depends on stronger economic connections between the North’s towns and cities, as well as with London.
‘The Northern Connection’ also provides new evidence of how success in some areas can drive up economic performance across the wider North. It backs up the Northern Way’s case for the economic development of the North’s city regions and suggests that stronger links between Manchester and Leeds provide the best opportunity for the North to replicate the success of the Greater London.
It also emphasises the need to continue to focus on the growth of the other Northern city regions and to learn from the performance of other northern places such as York and Chester which are performing well.
The report calls for further work to develop a clearer economic plan for improving links between the two cities, and across the wider North. The report also calls for the Government to back up its emphasis on devolved decision-making with investment in infrastructure, equivalent to its support for the growth of London.
Presenting the report, Professor Alan Harding of the Institute for Political and Economic Governance at the University of Manchester, said: "The University of Manchester report, which draws on interviews with leading businesses and a wide range of economic and demographic research, demonstrates that recent differences in economic growth across the country have been powerfully shaped by the performance of the largest, most economically diverse, and best connected cities and city-regions.
"Within the North, the city-regions focused upon Manchester and Leeds have led the way, followed by those centred upon Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.
"The North’s most peripheral areas, along with those that continue to experience industrial restructuring, have grown far more slowly. Even the North’s best performers, however, pale in comparison with London and huge area of influence around it.
"These differences seem to be set to grow, not least because many of the major public investments that are due to come on stream in the next few years will underpin and facilitate further growth in and around London.
"The challenge for the Northern Way and its stakeholders is to support and accommodate the growth of its key city-regions, particularly those connected along the M62-M1 axis, whilst at the same time ensuring that the benefits of their success are shared as widely as possible.
"This, in turn, will mean continuing to improve transport links within and between city regions, especially within the North; exploring what might improve complementarity and collaboration between Manchester and Leeds, where service industries have largely tended to replicate one another; understanding and encouraging the ‘spill-over’ effects of city-regional growth that may be beginning to happen in the North; and ensuring that key public investments and assets, particularly universities, continue to encourage private sector innovation."
Alongside this report, the Northern Way has launched a consultation on its Policy Research Programme for 2008-11.
The £6 million research programme, jointly funded by the three northern Regional Development Agencies and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, will help strengthen the North’s influence over economic policy, by bringing together new evidence about the structure and priorities for the economic development of the North, in areas such as transport, private investment, innovation and housing.
‘The Northern Connection’ will be discussed at a series of consultation events being held by the Northern Way across the North in January and February.
Designed to harness the expertise of policy-makers, researchers and academics, the consultation meetings will aim to start the process of bringing together current knowledge about the northern economy and highlight research priorities. They will consider in detail a framework of research proposals set out in a Northern Way consultation document.
Commenting on the consultation document, Andrew Lewis, Director of the Northern Way, said: "National policy often fails to respond to the particular needs of the North of England.
"This programme is an opportunity to identify those needs and opportunities more clearly, to put a more compelling case for the measures we need to take us forward."
Richard Baker, Research and Policy Manager for Northern Way, added: "’The Northern Connection’ offers significant new insights into the performance and potential of the northern economy to achieve higher growth through better connections.
"Our research programme will aim to uncover evidence of this quality across the economic agenda and prepare the ground for the next stage of our economic development."
Source: Northern Way press release