The Northern Powerhouse continues to be held up as a driver of economic growth but how strong is the pedestal that they media headlines put us on?
In my opinion we need to understand where our growth is coming from and what could hinder that growth.
If we look at growth firstly, latest economic growth figures show that since the Northern Powerhouse was launched in 2014, it has outstripped many of its rivals including that of Greater London. With Greater Manchester grabbing the top spot with a 6.8% growth, followed by West Yorkshire at 6.1% and Sheffield at 5% compared to Greater London at 4.6%.
However, what we see is the level of growth varies dependent on the industry with information and communication; manufacturing and construction driving growth and financial and legal, printing and publishing and education sectors experiencing a decline.
So good news so far! But what could derail the region?
One area of concern continues to be our transport infrastructure which has seen business continue to be impacted by the years of non-investment in the rail and road networks. Northern communities only get a fraction of the transport investment that the South-East receives which proves costly to the business environment. The current work to modernise the rail industry has caused chaos with continuing delays and cancellations the norm. With government ministers and the Mayor of Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham – wading into the debate, as commuters resort to taxi’s, hire cars, hotels and extended childcare, we can only hope that the investment the region needs and deserves comes through if the county is to continue its growth curve. In addition to this if businesses in the north can support the work that needs to be done it will be a win-win for the region.
And what of Brexit?
The issue of Brexit is on everyone’s lips and the continuing lack of a deal continues to frustrate with the two-year anniversary of the referendum nearly upon us. From the businesses that we come across they don’t seem overly concerned at the moment. They are continuing to focus on their own businesses whilst the furore which they have no control over continues.
The most important thing in my mind though is the ability for SMEs to access the financial resources they need to carry out their business plans. Plans which will continue to drive economic growth through the creation of jobs in our local communities. We continue to see demand for finance facilities as the banking sector focuses on cost and shedding jobs whilst reining in funding, which doesn’t bode well for those businesses seeking fast access to funding.
If the UK is to support regional growth in the North, we need to make sure that support for the business community remains at the top of the agenda.