• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

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Steelworks crisis shows ‘substance’ behind Northern Powerhouse

Graham RobbThe positive response to the SSI steelworks closure in Teesside demonstrates the “substance, not the spin” behind the Northern Powerhouse, according to the chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East.

Graham Robb said Northern businesses, communities and politicians have rallied together in a time of adversity. “That is the essence that will provide the ‘power’ in our powerhouse. But we need that approach in all circumstances, not just the difficult,” he said.

Graham was speaking at the Building the Northern Powerhouse conference at AQL in Leeds. The event, part of the IoD’s Public Square series, was held in in association with the Cabinet Office. It examined the development of the Northern Powerhouse and outlined how businesses and the third sector can join the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Partnership programme.

Graham said: “Last year my home area suffered a grievous economic blow with the closure of the SSI steelworks. The anger and sadness of the local community is palpable – 2915 people were affected both from the Redcar blast furnace site and the long supply chain.

“However, just over seven months have passed and the task force, made up of local employers and community leaders, has made a tremendous start finding people alternative employment. 1474 people have moved off benefits into full time work or training.

“This is substantial. But more is needed.”

Robb said the recently published Heseltine report acknowledged the “incredible” opportunities that Teesside offers to the wider North and beyond. A new South Tees Development Corporation, the only such body outside London, has been formed to plan the future of the former steelworks site. It will be led by the new combined authority Mayor using his or her devolved powers.

“All of this is the substance, not the spin of the Northern Powerhouse; devolution is being used as a spur for rejuvenation. Money is being spent locally, targeted to specifically tackle distinct local challenges,” said Graham.

He urged businesses across the North to adopt the same partnership approach as Teesside, and play their part in making the Northern Powerhouse a success.

Graham said early adopters of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership programme included Newcastle Airport, PD Ports on the River Tees, Carillion plc, Rivers Capital Partners and the North East’s Entrepreneurs’ Forum. “The Partnership programme is an excellent way of extending the ownership of this project beyond the politicians and into the wider North of England. It is something I enthusiastically endorse and urge business across the North of England to adopt,” he added.

Other speakers at the conference included James Wharton MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Chris Hearld, chairman of KPMG’s Northern Region.

By admin