The Great Northern Conference 2019 in Leeds will feature Northern Powerhouse pioneers former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and economist Lord Jim O’Neill.
They co-created the concept of bringing together the great cities, towns and rural communities of the North to become a powerhouse for the economy.
The event will be hosted by ITV’s Good Morning Britain journalist Ranvir Singh at the New Dock Hall by the Royal Armouries museum on February 26.
It will bring together leading figures from the worlds of business and politics in the North for a major summit on how to boost the economy of the area and create opportunities for its 15 million people.
Lord O’Neill said: “Across the Northern Powerhouse, the work of building a virtual city will start from Liverpool and end in Newcastle, and both these city regions either have elected or will elect a mayor. These individuals, working with business, must make the long-term choices to drive growth far beyond the levels we are seeing now, despite some welcome progress.
He added: “Devolution is the key to unlocking the potential of the Northern Powerhouse. Our businesses are united, our Metro Mayors and city leaders are doing great things. But without that government backing, starting with Northern Powerhouse Rail [a high speed rail network serving the great cities of the North], nothing will happen. We as the North should be knocking on doors demanding that commitment.”
Figures obtained by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership show that, while a number of Northern regions have performed well in the past year, many of the North’s key areas are lagging behind the national average when it comes to the productivity of their workforces.
City regions in the Leeds, York, Humber and Greater Manchester areas all showed growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) per head to be lower than the national average of 2.9 per cent.
Cheshire and Warrington is the best performing region in the North, with a 5.4 per cent increase in GVA growth in 2017. Its GVA per head figure – essentially how much each person contributes towards the economy – of 33,385 is also considerably higher than the national average.
Notable names attending the conference in Leeds include the Mayor of Greater Manchester and former health secretary Andy Burnham, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry and Siemens CEO Jürgen Maier.
Minister Mr Berry said: “Colleagues from the government and I will be speaking at the Great Northern Conference and helping lead debate to ensure we are answering the big question of how to drive Northern productivity.
“As the most recent figures show, many areas have been increasing productivity, but as we improve transport connectivity across Pennines and invest through the Industrial Strategy this progress must be accelerated. This agenda in 2019 needs to be front and centre in the domestic political debate. This is not just about a greater and ambitious North, but building a greater country.”
Physiology Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of The University of Manchester; Debbie Francis, the managing director of Direct Rail Services; and Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott are just some of the powerful female voices speaking at the conference.
The conference is being sponsored by this paper’s owners JPI Media and by banking group CYBG, train company LNER and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
James Mitchinson, editorial director of JPI Media Yorkshire and editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “For too long now the people of this region have been left wanting. This is our opportunity to set the tone and tempo for the whole of The North at a crucial time in the nation’s history.”
“But this won’t be a chorus of lamentation; I hope stakeholders from all sectors seize this opportunity to set expectations and give ownership to those expectations so that we can properly monitor progress and react accordingly.”
The day-long conference will begin in earnest with a talk on the ‘State of the North’, which will include a review of progress made to date and plans for the future in a post Brexit landscape.
Other topics include ‘business growth’; ‘SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises): The future of a Northern Powerhouse?’; ‘Connectivity’, a discussion on planned and required developments to improve connections between northern cities and towns in order to positively impact business growth; ‘Education and Skills’; and ‘Investment’.
After the seminars there will be a drinks reception, followed by a keynote speech, dinner and entertainment. Business leaders and political figures are being urged to sign up for delegate places at the event on Tuesday, February 26.
See Great Northern Powerhouse for more information.