In September 2018, more than 200 delegates gathered in Newcastle for one of the largest ever meetings between Northern businesses and civic leaders – the Convention of the North 2018.
The purpose was to discuss, and progress, the Northern Powerhouse agenda. During the meeting, there was one reoccurring standpoint: that the North of England would no longer accept underinvestment and inequality.
Undoubtedly, the North is ripe for investment, a powerful, standalone economy that central government cannot overlook, and this attitude should prevail in 2019.
The convention was a milestone for the Northern Powerhouse, with the significant moment re-emphasising the Northern leader’s commitment to bringing the scheme to fruition. Newcastle council leader, Nick Forbes, perhaps best summed up this attitude. He said: ‘the North must not undersell ourselves… we are a £304bn economy, and must push further and faster on devolution.’
The event was the perfect opportunity to address shared priorities and develop strategies for moving forward. All leaders agreed that the creation of high quality jobs was key to attracting international talent and positioning the Northern job market as a desirable alternative to the South. This was a fantastic outcome, since attracting greater levels of talent will increase the demand for property and allow us to continue building homes in sought-after locations.
The main aim of the Northern Powerhouse should be to serve local communities, rather than just capitalise on wider profits. At Investar, we share this vision. We are keen to improve communities by increasing property investment opportunities in strategic areas. The successful creation of a Northern Powerhouse will ensure that we can continue working to achieve this.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit talks dominated much of the agenda with the region’s metro mayors in widespread agreement that central government must engage fully with the North on what a post-Brexit deal includes.
Andy Burnham, metro mayor of Manchester, said that transferring more powers to Britain’s regions was ‘the best hope for making Brexit work and uniting our uncertain nation.’
In a statement following the convention, the assembled leaders wrote that Northern communities had the right to demand changes after Brexit, believing it to be the perfect opportunity for further devolution.
There is uncapped financial opportunity within a vast number of sectors in the North. Capitalising on this will encourage greater investment, both from the UK and overseas, which will prove vital when executing plans for the Northern Powerhouse.
The property and job markets in the North are booming, and so London is no longer the only UK city that appeals to foreign investors. Realistically, neither the government nor the Northern regions can afford to bring plans to fruition without financial aid. Attracting foreign investment is crucial. It’s great to see that the North has already begun to action this – for example, Chinese enquiries into Manchester property investment has risen by 50% since 2016.
Greater foreign investment will create opportunities for companies like us, who could contribute to the Northern Powerhouse by increasing property stock in strategic areas. More essentially, we are in the unique position of encouraging cross-border cooperation and bridging the gap between the UK and China, helping to boost business dealings in the North. Moving forward, this will prove to be imperative, ensuring that investors have full confidence in the North’s economy.
United voices and next steps
The Convention of the North was certainly a bold statement, with the Northern leaders unanimously demanding a new relationship with central government. This approach is exactly what the Northern Powerhouse initiative needs to take into 2019 – working together collaboratively is the only way to create something purposeful.