The UK steel industry is in a terrible position. Over the last twelve months, there has been a 46% increase in the amount of firms experiencing ‘significant’ financial strain and indeed the figures follow the loss of a quarter of all UK steel-making jobs, 5,000 in total, in the last year. The steel industry is under such strain because a number of factors including, falling international demand, cheap exports, high costs from taxes and climate change policies and finally a strengthening pound. This all one would say, links into Mr Osborne gloomy financial outlook about a ‘cocktail of threats’ which faces the UK. Of course there is no one antidote to the world economy’s problems, but what perhaps can be drawn as a lesson is the need to have several basis of strength, no nation is just a city and no economy is just a sector. It is truly basic economics that in order to reduce risk one should diversify, and you the savvy reader will realise I am suggesting we extrapolate this idea to the national stage and create the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
What does this actually mean and what are the government doing to make it a reality? The idea is that the UK has been increasingly London-centric and service based, which is firstly not sustainable and secondly not fair to the rest of the UK, thus the government is pumping in funds to try and reinvigorate the region. It is being done by increased devolution, allowing decisions to be made locally and by the people with the information, the prime example of this is the Manchester mayor getting increased power over transport, housing, planning and policing in his area. Another prong to the Northern Powerhouse is improving transportation networks, between Northern cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds, to name a few. Furthermore there will be increased links between the North and the South, with the creation of HS2 which will connect London, Birmingham, the east Midlands, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester. HS2 has caused some controversy, as expected with any new transport link as it disrupts the norm, yet for the sake of the national economy and the Northern Powerhouse idea, it is justified. The final point I will mention is the emphasis placed on links with the rest of the world, for example with China, in order to increase investment.
There is a lot of doubt and suspicion surrounding the Northern Powerhouse, as just a political move to garner support in the North and solidify a conservative majority with Labour being shut out of Scotland. The fact however is that with these long term infrastructure investments, the benefits will take time to materialise, that does not mean as a nation we should not undertake the task. This improvements will invigorate our economy, strengthen our resilience, provide a fairer country and make the North great again.
More locally, the York Tories were out in force last week, both to help campaign for Matthew Vickers for Police Crime Commissioner of Cleveland on Saturday as well as enjoying a real ale social on Wednesday. This week takes a bit more of relaxed ambience on Wednesday with a movie night, but the York Tories will be attending an EU debate on Friday, which will surely be very interesting and great fun! As always you can find us on social media, or out about on a Wednesday or Friday, where I will be freely available to discuss the merits or demerits of the Northern Powerhouse.