One of the most prominent aspects of George Osborne’s 2015 Budget was the concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and his plans to turn northern cities like Manchester and Liverpool, into economic hubs that rival London and the South East.
In order for Britain’s economy to be more fairly balanced between the north and the south, the Chancellor says four issues need to be addressed:
. Transport infrastructure needs to be improved predominantly via a new high-speed train line (HS3) linking Leeds and Manchester
. A greater focus on science and engineering, particularly through the regions’ many universities
. Giving greater autonomy in local Government, namely by having an elected mayor in Greater Manchester
. Building cultural links in northern cities to make them more attractive places to live
While critics of Osborne and the Conservatives contest the Chancellor’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision as a means of drumming up support in the north ahead of the General Election in May, we ask how balancing the power and economy of the country via a Northern Powerhouse utopia is likely to affect recruitment in the North West.
Firstly, it is important to note that Manchester is already seeing growth, particularly in relation to employment.
According to a recent report by Oxford Economics for the New Economy, 110,000 new jobs will be created in Manchester. While the jobs are there, the problem some employers in north are experiencing, particularly in the digital sector, is that the talent is not available.
Connecting the major northern cities
By providing ‘cultural links’ to make cities in the north more attractive to live and, with a high speed rail network that links the south with the north, meaning travel times are significantly slashed, it is the Northern Powerhouse’s aim to ensure cities like Manchester do have the talent employers in the region are seeking.
The idea is that if the HS3 gets built that links the cities of the north, the talent pool will be widened. Connecting Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds, businesses in these vital northern cities and the towns in between will be able to enjoy a bigger pool of talent to recruit from.
As Mark Hope, Digital director at Access, says:
“It is about producing people who are able to adapt as we don’t necessarily know what the new technology will be. It’s about producing ambitious, curious, innovative people that can contribute to the changing technology.”
In the short-term, the construction of such an ambitious transport infrastructure, which includes plans to build an underground road tunnel under the Peak District that links Manchester and Sheffield, will create jobs and help improve local economies.
On paper, it certainly sounds like the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ will create employment opportunities in the North West and help boost the economy. However, what we must not forget, as the Oxford Economics for the New Economy report proves, Manchester is doing a pretty good job at creating employment opportunities already.