More devolution and “great leadership” are vital to the future economic success of the North, a major conference on the Northern Powerhouse project was told.
In a keynote speech opening the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference and Exhibition in Manchester, former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake said that the leadership that was needed to drive the initiative further forward had to come from the region itself.
Lord Kerslake, chairman of the UK Northern Powerhouse Advisory board, also stressed that “fiscal devolution” was key to the North’s future and declared it shouldn’t let “recent setbacks” over devolution in some parts of the region stall its progress.
He said that there was a need for a “major shift” of power away from Westminster and Whitehall. He said: “The key questions for the Northern Powerhouse are where next and who should be providing the leadership?” He also described the project as a “marathon” and said that change would happen “over many years.” And he added that over the past 12 months it had become: “Increasingly clear that a successful Northern Powerhouse is essential to the country if it is going to tackle the deep structural economic problems we face and create a unified country.”
He said: “The strongest leadership for the next stage of the Northern Powerhouse needs to come from the North itself.” And he also called on business, higher education, local government and the voluntary sector to provide it. More than 3,000 delegates were expected over the two day international event.