Sir Howard Bernstein offered encouragement to Lancashire that it can play a “full role” in the north of England’s economic future, when he addressed an audience of county leaders.
Sir Howard is widely regarded as the architect of the fast-emerging Northern Powerhouse concept, that local authorities acting together as larger regions can win devolved powers from government.
Hosted by Downtown Lancashire in Business, Sir Howard was guest speaker at the Leaders Lunch on October 29 held at Barton Grange Hotel for 80 business and civic chiefs including Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Describing himself as a “passionate advocate of devolution”, Sir Howard said that hearing the view of the LEP was critical to the credibility of the Northern Powerhouse.
Sir Howard said: “What we’ve got to do is collectively work together and there will be consultation with the LEP, otherwise the narrative doesn’t have credibility.
“At the same time we have to be focussed on the key fundamentals. It isn’t about everybody saying ‘we are the Northern Powerhouse because we’ve got a tech hub’.
“This is about the sectors of global significance, or at least have the potential for that, because that’s what going to drive our productivity over the next decade, and that’s what’s going to attract the investment and trade that we need to grow our economy. And in my view, there are two big opportunities here in Lancashire – the aerospace and nuclear sectors. They are very distinctive assets.”
He said of Manchester’s head start in negotiating devolved powers including transport, planning and housing: “We knew we had to get our deal over the line to create the momentum for everywhere else. Now it’s trying to continue building on the platform.”
Ruth Connor, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, told the meeting: “We are moving ahead in developing an economic narrative for Lancashire which has the potential to make us globally distinctive.”