The chancellor has put the Northern Powerhouse at the heart of his autumn statement. In a continuing focus on funding for science, the arts, transport links and of course that technology hub, Manchester is certainly having its moment in the spotlight.
George Osborne announced that spending on the Northern Powerhouse will be covered in some part by a ‘sovereign’ fund, which in turn will be supported by revenue from the shale gas sector so that “resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North.” This might come as a surprise to the anti-fracking campaigners who were unaware it was a done deal.
As a B2B technology PR agency in Manchester we welcome the investment and the limelight truth be told. We celebrate the benefits the region will gain from much needed investment in improvements for road and rail links between the northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.
But does all of this come at a price? The environmental campaigners will argue that fracking is a price too high but it’s the citizens of Manchester who appear to have held to ransom. The price Osborne wants us to pay – an elected mayor. Now I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal but back in 2012 Manchester (and its neighbours in cities across the north) said no to an elected mayor. So what’s changed? Nothing much except that the Chancellor has waved £1billion in devolved powers in front of local government – oh and democracy isn’t really democracy.
While the investment and focus on TechHub North and the Northern Power is welcome, I can’t help but feel we’re being ridden roughshod over. London is still calling the shots by dictating what we can and can’t have. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with an elected mayor (apart from the cost) and we might even get someone mad like Boris, but didn’t we already say that we didn’t want one? Do you think that an elected Mayor is a small price to pay? Or would you rather see us continue to build a strong and vibrant economy using the successful method of local government we already have?
Claire Lamb is a consultant at Skout. She’s worked in technology PR for 20 years and has survived more bubbles than Michael Jackson.