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Northern Powerhouse ‘must plan for foreign investment’

Words: Laura Edgar
England / Shutterstock_214938469

Northern cities must better prepare their planning structures to attract foreign direct investment to fund the Northern Powerhouse, as Ofsted chief expresses concern over falling school standards in the region

Infrastructure service provider AECOM argues that “much greater” levels of funding are required than the government or city regions can afford to achieve the “truly transformational change” required to turn individual Northern towns and cities into a “connected economy”.

AECOM says foreign direct investment is “crucial” to help fuel the Northern Powerhouse and local and regional planning authorities will “need to create the right conditions to attract this inward investment”.

Richard Green, director of design, planning and economics at AECOM’s Manchester office, explained: “Investors don’t back countries, they back their best bet of getting a return. The North has to compete for investment like any other potential recipient project in every country. It is therefore critical that transport infrastructure isn’t planned in a silo. Other important enablers such as housing, employment, schools and hospitals all play a crucial role in ensuring that people will want to live and work in an area. Real estate values will increase as a consequence, making infrastructure projects an attractive investment proposition.”

Green added that investors need “certainty around planning issues” and the length of time a project will take to be delivered.

Failing schools putting Northern Powerhouse at risk

Secondary schools in Liverpool and Manchester risk causing the Northern Powerhouse to “splutter and die”, warns the chief inspector of Ofsted.

In a speech to think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research, Sir Michael Wilshaw said such schools are “not firing on all cylinders”, as GCSE performances were deteriorating.

According to Ofsted, three in 10 secondary schools in Manchester and four in 10 in Liverpool are judged to be inadequate or to require improvement.

Wilshaw said: “Manchester and Liverpool are at the core of our ambitions for a Northern Powerhouse. They are the engines that could transform the prospects of the entire region. But as far as secondary education is concerned they are not firing on all cylinders. In fact they seem to be going into reverse.”

He called on local politicians – mayors, councils leaders and cabinet members – to “stand up and be counted, to shoulder responsibility for their local schools, to challenge and support them regardless of whether they are academies or not”.

He wants them to make education in general, and their “underperforming secondary schools in particular”, a “central target” of their strategy for growth.

“Unless they do, I fear Manchester and Liverpool will never become the economic powerhouses we want them to be. We cannot fight for social mobility with political immobility. Politicians need to act. It requires grit, imagination, faith and bloody-mindedness – qualities that, fortunately, I really don’t think are less common in the North than they are down South,” he said.

Wilshaw’s full speech can be found here.

UK Northern Powerhouse held a conference on 25 and 26 February.

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