The buzzwords of the moment are ‘northern’ and ‘powerhouse’.
In fact, they are used so often in our everyday conversations that people feel optimistic about the powerhouse becoming a reality.
Businesses, politicians, the third sector and even communities are enthusiastically embracing the ambition with a level of engagement seldom seen. Just a few weeks ago, Sir Richard Leese and I discussed our thoughts on the Northern Powerhouse at a breakfast event held in Manchester.
Such is the interest that almost three hundred people rocked up at 7:30am to hear what we had to say and ask questions. The fact that so many wanted to join the conversation is an opportunity that should not be wasted.
It was interesting that a number of people were present from outside of Greater Manchester. From Merseyside to Yorkshire, from Cheshire and Lancashire, organisations and people were represented.
That suggests two things. First, that the recognition that Greater Manchester is leading the way is not abating and second that those outside of our city region now have a real responsibility to come forward with their own proposals that will stop the Northern Powerhouse just being Manchester.
We will need common agreement on the definition of the Northern Powerhouse. Most work to date has focused on transport and inward investment, with the One North report setting out those priorities.
However, it’s not just about transport, or the electrification of the line between Manchester and Leeds. It’s much more, and we need to be careful not to adopt a silo mentality as to do so would only create a Whitehall of the North.
We need to go further now by establishing a common economic narrative and also one that tackles social mobility and dependency to such an extent and, put simply, if you grow up in the north, you can stay in the north and prosper in the north.
The mechanism to deliver is devolution. Local decision making, connecting infrastructure and growth decisions with public service reform, are the only ways we can turn the ambition into a reality. That will need all of us to work as one and to get motoring.
Now more than ever, the real responsibility lies with our colleagues across the north to overcome the difficulties that may be faced in bringing together proposals but the momentum and enthusiasm is there and shouldn’t be lost.
For many years, successive governments have tried to tackle the north-south divide. The difference this time is that instead of the government trying to do something to us, we have the chance to do it ourselves. We can make this happen, but only if we are all on board.
Sean Anstee (Con), leader, Trafford MBC