A focus on collaboration, accelerated devolution of powers and funding, and ending competition between Northern cities and towns and other parts of the country were the main messages from the third Convention of the North with NP11 held yesterday (08 February) in Liverpool City Region.
The event brought together Northern civic, business and community leaders including metro mayors, Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chairs, third sector leaders, and politicians to participate in action-focussed discussions to deliver concrete plans for the North and its post-Covid recovery.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt Hon Michael Gove, delivered the keynote speech which focussed on the importance of the North playing its part in a national effort to tackle regional inequalities through more devolution and the empowerment of accountable local actors working in the interests of the North on behalf of both public and private sectors.
He said: “Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, and wherever your background comes from, levelling up has to be the central economic and social and moral mission… …we simply can't go on with the gulf between rich and poor, North and South growing. It's not simply a matter of social justice. It's also a matter of economic efficiency.
“Ultimately, we're all on the same team. And that is a team committed to making sure the opportunity is more equal across the whole of our United Kingdom.”
Aby Ndiaye, 23, business with finance student at Liverpool John Moores University, delivered a speech at the event after taking part in just two preparation sessions with the Power Up Collective as part of Northern Power Women.
During her speech, she said: “Please think of young people like us when you make decisions. Please include us in your conversations about the North. We want to help create a world of opportunity.”
Speaking afterwards she added: “We need to be having more dialogue with young people, especially in the North. There is still an ingrained mentality across the region that as soon you’ve finished with your education – be it university or any other pathway – that to get the best opportunities you need to move down south and start a new life.
“But the question is why should you not start that life right here in the North? I’m certain that young people can also achieve their goals here but our generation needs to be heard and given a chance.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“Today has been a really important opportunity for leaders across the North to come together and speak with one voice – and for Michael Gove to listen. Our message to his government is crystal clear: levelling up can’t be delivered from the top down so work with us to make it happen.
“The North is home to the brains and the heart of the UK, with some of the best universities, innovative businesses, exciting visitor attractions and unique cultural heritage on our doorstep.
“Levelling up has to be about more than shiny buildings and promises of big investment. It has to be about improving people’s life chances, delivering opportunity for long-forgotten places and righting long-term systemic regional inequalities.
“It isn’t, and shouldn’t, be a race to the bottom – and it cannot be delivered from the top down. A strong North is good for London and for UK plc too. We have the blueprint for the brighter, fairer, more successful country that we are all fighting for – now we need government to back us to help make those plans a reality.”
Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 group of 11 northern local enterprise partnerships, said:
“We have all the ingredients, recipe and resolve needed to drive the North’s renaissance: strengths in net zero and low carbon industries, life sciences, digital and advanced manufacturing.
“By leaning further into these strengths, we can create a North that punches above its own weight and plays a leading part in a new, global Britain.
“But to be truly effective we need to have the right tools made available to all of our region’s leaders so that we can all contribute positively to the country’s balance sheet. The levelling-up agenda sheds some light on how this might be achieved but we also need further, firm commitments for long-term investment in the North. The prize for this investment will be economic growth for social transformation.”
Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council, said:
“This event is about much more than presenting the Government with a wish list or a shopping list. It’s an opportunity to think creatively about how we can work collectively to do even more with the many strengths that our region already has. We have to dare to dream and dare to act. Today has been about putting a razor-sharp focus on how we do just that.”
“Transport for the North is one great example of how northerners have come together to back investment across this region. We need to see more collaboration like this, not only across our transport needs but also across net zero, research and development, advanced manufacturing, and business innovation. A cross-sector approach will ensure the North can lead the way towards achieving the UK’s Net Zero and sustainability targets by drawing on all of its critical strengths.”
Helen Simpson OBE, Chair of the York and North Yorkshire LEP added “ The Convention of the North was an important day, when the North came together as one to respond to the Levelling Up White Paper. I welcome the commitments within the white paper which include negotiation of a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire. As a region, we are ready, our proposal is with government, lets get on with it and deliver the long term investment we need across the whole of York and North Yorkshire”
Hosted by council leaders, metro mayors and the North’s 11 LEP Chairs, the Convention of the North was held at The Spine, Paddington Village – Liverpool’s first Grade-A office building for more than a decade and the country’s healthiest building in accordance with the international WELL Building Standard to which it is designed.
The event was organised by the NP11, Culture Liverpool, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on behalf of the Convention for the North.
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