Across the north of England, a revolution is happening.
Cities are the driving forces for economic prosperity and, through empowered local decision-making, quality of life and liveability of place are reaching the top of the priority list.
The Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review has concluded that a step-change in economic performance, significantly above ‘business as usual’ projections, is possible with substantial improvements in transport connectivity, skills, innovation, and inward investment across the north.
By 2050, this could mean that greater value added would be 15% or £97bn higher than it would otherwise have been; productivity would be 4% higher; and some 850,000 additional jobs would be created.
This is important because we no longer discuss economic productivity or reforming services for the public in isolation. We have an opportunity now to do something different, ensuring that generations of children often left behind can share in the proceeds of future growth and become wealthier with higher skills.
We can take a new, joined-up approach to supporting families with complex needs in a way that interventions have in the past have been unable to do.
The argument for devolved decision making has been won. With that comes a great responsibility to use political power wisely to improve outcomes for our most disadvantaged. For too long we have been unable to find a resolution to the ongoing disparity in outcomes for children born and growing up in the North of England compared to the south. We can change this.
It should be without question that if you are born in the north, you can be successful in the north and if you choose can stay and prosper in the north. Your life chances should not inhibited by the geographic location in which you grow up.
It is incumbent on decision-makers today to look beyond short-term gain and challenge ourselves to systemically discover new approaches, to take our responsibilities seriously and to support families to support our next generation, who too often feel unable to benefit from economic growth.
It is why the Growing Up North study announced by the Children’s Commissioner in December is so important.
This is the start of a year-long investigation into the real causes of educational outcome disparity between north and south. The interest and appetite for devolution around the Northern Powerhouse means we have a unique opportunity to change the face of this country.
In Greater Manchester, we have already started work on how services for children could be improved by working with each other, in recognition of the fact that not only does a disparity exist between north and south, but within city regions as well. Whilst we may think of the north as a single entity, outcomes and solutions will be defined locally.
We owe the next generation our support for this study which will offer an invaluable contribution to the debate on how we support all of our children to get off to the best possible start in life.
Sean Anstee (Con), leader, Trafford MBC