The news that George Osborne is to remain as a backbench MP whilst focusing on his new role as chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership is good news for my birth city of Liverpool. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership appears to be an independent group which includes politicians and business leaders, all committed to pushing the agenda of greater powers and investment for the Northern regions to boost jobs and growth. Their aim is to devolve powers and money from Whitehall to northern city regions in a bid to boost the economic performance of the area. There is no doubt that London dominates the UK in terms of economic and political power in a manner that leaves the rest of the nation disadvantaged in many senses. Unfortunately much of the debate that takes place inside and outside of Parliament treats London and the South East as though we are one homogeneous area. In reality many parts of the South East that falls outside of London pay a huge price for being adjacent to and dominated by London. There are certainly times when we benefit from the crumbs falling from the table of Whitehall. At one time Brighton and Hove was judged to have as many pilots as Gatwick when the then Labour controlled Council led by Steve Bassam was asked by the then Tory Government to trial all sorts of ideas and initiatives. However in reality Sussex is an area of very mixed fortunes and some of our poorer communities are in as much need of assistance as parts of the North. It is time for us to find a champion who like the former Chancellor will bang the table on behalf of our region, and ensure the cause of area is promoted. In some senses this is what the various Local Economic Partnerships do, but what is needed must go much further than their remit, bringing in the experience and understanding embedded in many parts of the voluntary sector. It is only when we can see the three strands of sustainability at work that any gains will be meaningful. These three strands are economic, social and environmental. The well respected Gatwick Diamond Business network is clearly doing a great job on one of those strands for an area that was already well provided for in terms of jobs, but we need a champion who will also help areas such as Littlehampton, Bognor Regis as well as Newhaven and Hailsham and help create well paid jobs in these areas too as well as focusing in housing, social need and of course the environmental impact of all of these objectives.
A shortened version of this blog appears in todays Argus newspaper.