Centre for Cities - Realising Regional Growth: What next for Greater Manchester?

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23 June, 2022

At a recent Centre for Cities event in Manchester, there was a focus on innovation and regeneration in the North to maximise growth and productivity. It brought together academics, politicians and professionals from a vast array of disciplines such as law, banking, insurance and universities.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville addressed why northern cities have not grown to the same extent as the south, stating that a big reason for this is the variance in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and value-added per capita efficiency. Different sectors of the economy have very different levels of GDP. Value added per capita in agriculture for example is at the very low end of this spectrum, whereas the big money maker in manufacturing is wholly significant in boosting GDP and economic growth. Ultimately, northern cities have suffered a loss of high GDP sectors, being replaced with much lower per capita sectors to try and compensate. Lord Sainsbury drew on how the manufacturing sector in Manchester fell from one third in the 1970's, to a mere 5% in 2011 detailing three reasons for the disparity in regions:

  1. Firstly, the latest industrial revolution in the north - there is now a lack of ability to create new high value jobs, and attract talent, and therefore compensate for losses
  2. Secondly, in his view, Government interventions reinforce the current economic structure. There is lack of focus on knowledge intensive businesses, and more focus on low-skilled jobs that help to reduce unemployment and recruit cheaper foreign labour
  3. Finally, research and development spending in the UK - 31% of this is focused in the subregions of Oxford and Cambridge. For every 1 job created in the north, midlands and Wales since 1911, 2.3 jobs are created in the south.

A senior analyst at the Centre for Cities, Anthony Breach, provided a quantitative analysis on the current state of play. Startling figures showed that between 1911-2001, there was 44% job growth in England and Wales. Greater Manchester was -14%. More encouragingly, between 2001-2019, this is now +27% for Greater Manchester, and 16% in England and Wales. Technological changes, innovation and devolved leadership are contributory factors to this improvement. Leeds, followed by Greater Manchester, have grown faster than London in knowledge intensive jobs from 1981-2013. To keep progressing, we need to ensure the city centres keep growing, fix the transport systems, improve skills and training, and attract more innovative workers and firms that will help to diffuse innovation.

Andy Burnham, Mayor for Greater Manchester, was next in proceedings, providing a snapshot on his proposals he plans to send to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The general consensus throughout the conference was a desire to fix transport in the region. Fixing this will open more opportunities for people. Within the housing sector, many living in rented and social housing premises are receiving public funds through the benefits system. Landlords do not want to reinvest the money, he believed, in their properties. Having a good Landlord charter will ensure public funds are not being used, and will ensure that houses are required to be of a decent standard.

Finally, the keynote speech was given by the former prime minister, Gordon Brown. His fascinating insight looked at the need for universities, chambers of commerce and the tech industry to work together. He said this would help to exploit new clusters which the likes of London, New York etc have for areas such as media, technology, health and medicine and business growth. Focus needs to be on sectors where entrepreneurial activity is taking place, and which have records of strength. The former PM concluded by saying that devolution should take place:

  1. Firstly, by using local people, colleges and businesses who know what is best for the local economy
  2. Secondly, by investing in research and development to understand what can/cannot be done to foster innovation
  3. Thirdly, infrastructure - development in rail and transport is vital; and
  4. Finally, innovation - focusing on expansion in areas that are growing

This was such a fascinating and insightful conference, with many exciting proposals for the GM region which will be interesting to track going forward.

For more information contact Joseph Monk in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 202040. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Housing & Regeneration department here

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