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SOUTHERN POWERHOUSE By Dean Orgill Chairman of Mayo Wynne Baxter •


hether under the name of Localism or Devolution to the regions we have been hearing and reading quite a lot of late about central government passing a greater degree of economic (and possibly political?) autonomy to the regions of England. This may, or may not, come with attached strings such as an elected local Mayor. But whether we embrace it or not this does seem to be the current direction of political travel. Businesses therefore need to prepare for it, both individually and collectively. Business in the South East could potentially find itself at a disadvantage as the regional agenda at the moment appears to be dominated by references to the Northern Powerhouse. As an initiative, the idea of promotion of greater economic growth in the North would be hard to criticise. I am sure we would all be happy to see the great cities of the North making an even stronger contribution to UK plc. The Government has of course made an open commitment to push the initiative by appointing a Minister for the Northern Powerhouse – James Wharton MP – and speaks openly, and often, about improving the infrastructure in the northern region. Whilst there are some

comments from the North-east that “The North” for these purposes seems to be too Manchestercentric, the thrust is nevertheless evident that our region is not automatically going to be looked to first when Government is looking to spend on capital projects, or long-term skills investment. It is therefore going to be necessary for us to make very strong economic cases when bidding for any funding of Government origin. This means demonstrating that money being spent will produce a clear economic benefit – largely looked at in terms of additional jobs created. The impact of that will, ultimately benefit the economy of the country since I believe that we remain net “exporters” from business rates. The recent successes of attracting funding from bids assisted by the Coast to Capital LEP do show, however, that we can still win funding if the proposals are well thought through, clearly demonstrate a net economic benefit and are ready to start if they receive the green light. Timescales for bidding are often quite short, and it is very hard to work up proposals from scratch when the announcement of the rounds is made. But if schemes are ready to be submitted once the call is made then chances of success

can still be good. We have an excellent LEP in Coast to Capital, local councils whose economic teams are wellversed in the system and keen to assist, strong local business partnerships and organisations and some great businesses in the area. The organisations can get behind developments proposals, and businesses could also help by assisting in the bids for infrastructure funds. Our voices will be much more likely to be heard if we speak collectively. Whilst our growth figures have been good, that does not mean that we cannot still keep improving. Success can indeed breed success and we must not let the northern pointing spotlight put us into the shade.

JUST A THOUGHT Is your business managed, or led?


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