Northern Powerhouse: a new pub or an economic policy?

A BBC survey shows nearly two thirds of northerners have never heard of – or don’t know what the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse is…

Imagine the scene: pollster stops man in the street in Manchester and asks if he’s heard of the Northern Powerhouse? Answer: “Is that the new pub on Deansgate?”

While some may think the idea of creating an economic force to equal London is like trying to push treacle up hill, it’s also a tad patronising.  Southern johnnies telling the Northern masses what’s good for them has a long and dishonourable history.

All in all, however, from a communications and engagement point of view, I’m not sure it is critical whether people in the North (cue stereotype of flat headgear and skinny racing dogs) know about the policy or even whether they’ve heard of it.

Indeed, spending money promoting the concept ‘up North’ would simply be a back-door way of spending money on the Conservative re-election campaign and the attraction of doing that for George Osborne, the leader-in-waiting and would-be PM is obvious.

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Investment in infrastructure will be helpful and promoting the region – if you can ever unite the counties of the red and white roses – will also be important. But what is crucial is an externally facing business and investment campaign outside the UK to inward investors across the world.

If Northern England is to compete with regions in Europe, then the communications must be targeted at  so-called ‘foot-loose’  investors for whom a flexible workforce with world-leading skills is a prerequisite, coupled with good infrastructure and travel connections. They also want their ex-pat employees to feel safe and secure and be well-served with excellent education, hospitals, culture and natural environment.

It’s all to play for. But I just wish the Northern Powerhouse concept didn’t sound so Westminster-driven and condescending.

About adamroscoe

Brit in Switzerland - always welcome a professional challenge; it's the best way to grow and learn. Currently into fourth career: 1] Journalist, 2] Public Relations and Corporate Communications, 3] Sustainability, HSE, business ethics and crisis management [4] Consultant for 2 and 3 above. Trained as a journalist when it was normal to type reports on a typewriter before entering public relations and issues management consultancy and from there joined chemical company ICI plc as head of communications for one of its divisions. Migrated to Switzerland in 2001 for a job with the communications department of a Fortune 500 company, concluding in communications as head of corporate comms. Assigned to reinvigorate and grow the company's sustainability function, specifically focusing on improving health, safety, security, crisis management, environment and human rights around the world. This background has given me an ability to embed sustainable business practice and true, two-way engagement into the business strategy. I also try to assimilate as much complex information as fast as possible, before processing it and developing strategic recommendations, backed-up by practical proposals on implementation. Interests: photography (see flickr! link on this site), learning more about the 'post-fact era', cooking, wine and classic cars. Twitter: @tontkowalski
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