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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Chamber Blog: The Prime Minister's North West 'Powerhouse' Plan

By Chris Fletcher, Director of Policy and Communications at Greater Manchester Chamber of
Commerce

On Thursday 8th January over 200 Chamber members gathered at the old Granada Studios building in Manchester for what was a unique opportunity to hear direct from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor about the government’s plans for future economic growth in the North West.

For keen followers of policy none of the announcements were new and much of the narrative centred around the Northern Powerhouse proposals; however what was different was the fact that they have now been packaged under the banner of 'The Long Term Economic Plan for the North West' with six pledges.

The first was around creating 100,000 new North West jobs in the next parliament; the second was to deliver the largest transport investment ever in the North West – approximately £4.5 billion; next a statement to make the North West a global science centre; forth was to raise the quality of life in the region; fifth was to deliver on giving more power to the region’s cities and finally to raise the standard of living throughout the region so that residents earn more money.

The Prime Minister outlined the pledge and then the Chancellor delivered the detail.

All excellent stuff and nothing you could disagree with. The caveats, as ever, are how this will be delivered, over what timescale and from our members’ perspectives, what their roles are in making this happen?

Some of these issues came out in the Q&A session that followed, with particular focus on SME involvement with this – something that the Chamber’s skills service has tackled well over the last two years with 900 new apprentices in work.

When questioned on the region’s engineering and manufacturing sector and what role this can still play, the interesting answer outlined that when the government says rebalancing the economy, it isn't just geographic, i.e. London vs everywhere else, but the sectoral differences also need tackling. Something pleasing to hear, but which has proven a huge stumbling block in the past.

The event ended after an hour and for the few members that hung on till the end, both the PM and Chancellor came back into the room to do some personal meets (and quite a few selfies!)
So all in all a great chance for a large number of Chamber members to get to listen, meet and, in some cases, quiz the two most senior politicians in the UK.

Obviously the starting gun has been fired ahead of May and we will keep tabs on all the major issues through our Campaign for Business and this, no doubt, will be the first of many similar events over the coming few months.

If you attended the event and want to comment on anything you heard, please e-mail me at chris.fletcher@gmchamber.co.uk.

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