By working together the Liverpool and Manchester regions can become the “engine room at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse”, a conference on the devolution of power to big city regions heard at Runcorn’s Heath Business and Technical Park.
The event, on Thursday, November 24, featured Labour MPs Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham who are standing as Metro Mayors for the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, respectively.
They said the two cities must cast aside age-old rivalries and work together to maximise the opportunities within the new political system.
Walton MP Mr Rotheram said: Liverpool and Manchester City Regions can be the engine room at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse – generating the pressure to push the whole agenda forward.”
And Leigh MP Mr Burnham said he believes, by working in partnership, the North West can once again become the nation’s industrial capital: “We need a new partnership that has got to be based on long-term commitment to making the North West the industrial capital,” the former Shadow Home Secretary told an audience of more than 100 business leaders.
“For too long, the voice of the North West of England has been drowned out by London and Scotland,” he added.
“The two great City Regions will always be fierce competitors, but where it’s right, businesses do want to see us working together for the good of our region. This is becoming more important if we are to help the North West region rise to challenge of Brexit.”
He said the political “earthquake” post-Brexit can offer a new beginning for both regions: “Maybe this is the birth of a North West union where Steve and I can work together, because if we do work together we will achieve more. We will ensure the voice of the North West of England will be heard more loudly than ever before.”
And he reached out to business owners, saying: “We want a new relationship with businesses here in the North West to make it easier to work together.”
Mr Burnham also vowed to set up business start-up units in schools to offer youngsters a better future.
Mr Rotheram, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “This is where Andy and I can make devolution work jointly for our two great city regions – and beyond – as we set aside tribal differences to campaign on issues that are in the common interest of the whole North West.
“Too many policy ideas are progressed through the prism of what London and the South East needs. I want us to make decisions locally – to address local concerns – and challenge inter-regional inequality.”
He added: “I am on public record as saying I want to be the most business-friendly Metro Mayor possible. But I’ll be pro-business – and pro-worker.”
And he pledged to set up a Liverpool City Regional Renewable Energy Company to harness the River Mersey and use offshore tidal energy to power homes, funded through a public/private sector partnership.
Other areas he said he would target would be public transport and the re-regulation of bus services: “The outline scheme for a new rail route between Liverpool and Manchester should be a priority. It was a bitterly disappointing blow that this wasn’t included in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement spending plans.”
The two Mayoral candidates gave their views on:
- How the new Metro Mayoral system can help to ensure the North West has a more powerful voice and help to narrow the North-South divide.
- The future for the North West post-Brexit.
- What Liverpool and Manchester must do to make the most from the exciting opportunities that lay ahead, which will mean forging greater links between these two key cities.
- And Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement.
Earlier they gave their rallying call for Liverpool and Manchester’s business communities to work together at a roundtable meeting with 10 of the leading businesses and organisations in the North West.
The roundtable included the CEO of Everton Football Club, Robert Elstone, Chief Operating Officer of Liverpool FC, Andy Hughes, and the Operations Director of Manchester United’s Foundation, John Eades.
The session, chaired by John Lewis, Managing Director of SOG Group which developed The Heath, also included senior executives from Biotech Energy Services, Cammell Laird, Mexichem, Peel Ports, United Utilities and Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce.
Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram also toured part of the business park and met students from local schools and colleges who were taking part in a business ‘open day’, engaging with scores of companies from across the region to gain invaluable careers advice and guidance.