More patience needed on Northern Powerhouse, says minister

Lord O'Neill speaking at the UK Northern Powerhouse conference today.

People need to show patience with the political and economic process because the success of the Northern Powerhouse “should be measured in years, not months” said the Treasury minister responsible for the Northern Powerhouse speaking today at the UK Northern Powerhouse conference in Manchester.

Commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill accepted that people wanted to see immediate results from the Northern Powerhouse project but stressed that getting the right political and economic plans in place would take time “if we are to make the next 50 years different from the last 50.”

O’Neill said that the potential of the north was potentially “game changing”. “Cities in the North have a proud history and together their potential is huge: within 40 miles of where we are here in Manchester, you have Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire – a belt of cities and towns that contains ten million people - more than Tokyo, New York or London,” he said. 

 “We know that we can revitalise the economy of the north. But we have to get this right, and we have to be in it for the long-haul. It is just over 18 months since the chancellor first talked about building a Northern Powerhouse and those who criticise it from the sidelines every time an individual project suffers a setback fail to realise its size, its scope and its enormous potential, said the minister.”  

 Northern Powerhouse was a long-term endeavour to address a problem which has existed for at least half a century, O’Neill said and that is why it was crucial that its success should be measured in years, not months, he said.

In the face of criticism and negativity about Northern Powerhouse, much of it emanating from the press, he claimed, O’Neill said that he was patient with the progress being made to date and that he was confident that the people of the north would determine the changes that would shape their region and their lives. 

In a clear message to elected politicians and also businesses in the region, O’Neill said: “Adaptability is needed – as is diversification.” Local leaders needed to “get out of their comfort zones” he said and need to be bolder and show vision to explain clearly what the Northern Powerhouse would mean to people across the whole of the north.

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