Empowering the North: Putting rural areas at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse

17 March 2018

John Stevenson MP, Co-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse APPG

During the last Government, The Northern Powerhouse concept was one of those ideas that really seemed to capture the imagination. It seemed to encapsulate a new energy and optimism about the north.

The concept is very much still on the agenda, and recently we have seen three major launches bringing renewed energy to the project; the setting up on the APPG for the Northern Powerhouse, the recent report from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership on education and skills in the north, and the initial transport plan proposals from Transport for the North.

These are all very positive developments, helped enormously by a proactive Minister for the Northern Powerhouse in Jake Berry.

However, one of the criticisms always levelled at the Northern Powerhouse is – what does it do for places like my constituency of Carlisle? The economic theory behind the Northern Powerhouse was based around the urban “belt” of the north – that part of the country that stretches from Liverpool, through Manchester and Leeds/Sheffield to Hull.

These major cities are vital parts of the north, but they alone do not constitute the north. Places like Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, and rural Lancashire are all important parts of the north too – but are often not necessarily the first places people thing about when the Northern Powerhouse is mentioned.

This is why ideas like the recent Borderlands initiative are so important. With the support of Jake Berry and David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Chancellor gave the green light in last year’s budget for a Borderlands growth deal.

The concept is unique in that it crosses the Scottish-English border and is very much more of a rurally based growth deal than the ones previously drawn up. Much work is still needed to flesh out what it will mean, but the initial reaction from local councils, MPs, MSPs and business has been incredibly positive. There is a strong sense that this is “our” own Northern Powerhouse and that it could present a real opportunity for the region to open itself up and show the rest of the country – and the world – what we have to offer.

I’ve always thought one of the great strengths of London is that, despite its enormous size, it still has a single and united view of itself. In London what is good for one part of London is good for the other parts too. Strengthening this mentality in the north will be one of the most important legacies of the Northern Powerhouse. It really seems to me that there is now a genuine desire in the north to work together for the good of our region. It is why I support a Northern Powerhouse Rail and upgrades for trans-Pennine routes south of Cumbria.

And it is through initiatives like the Borderlands that the Government can demonstrate how the Northern Powerhouse really is about empowering the north – all of it. Our job in the Borderlands is to translate that empowerment into success for us in the Borders, as well as for the rest of the north.

This article was originally published by Quatro on 17th March 2018. Subscribe to Quatro’s weekly news updates here.