A NEET SOLUTION: CLLR STEPHEN LAMBERT AND PROFESSOR ROBIN SIMMONS ARGUE WE NEED SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN ECONOMIC POLICY TO TACKLE THE SCOURGE OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE NORTH EAST.

DESPITE THE slight fall in youth unemployment across the UK, 800,000 16 to 24-year olds are classed as NEET – not in education, employment or training. According to the business backed think thank Policy North, 21 per cent of young people are jobless in what’s been described as ‘a lost or forgotten generation’.

Youth unemployment is now higher than in 2009 – and the North East is being hit the hardest. Figures for Newcastle illustrate this quite vividly. 18 per per cent of the city’s 16 to 24-year olds are NEET. While the affluent districts of Gosforth have NEET rates for 16 and 17-year olds as low as 1%, comparable rates for disadvantaged neighbourhoods such as Benwell/Scotswood and Walker are far higher – 7% and 11% respectively. In the most deprived outer council estates of Woodhouse Close, Bishop Auckland and Cowgate, Newcastle, unemployment amongst young adults is a staggering 30%!

The implications are serious for hard pressed businesses and public services. Being NEET is often related to youth offending, mental health, early parenthood and other ‘’scarring effects’’. However research carried out by Robin Simmons and his colleagues at Huddersfield University challenges some of the stereotypes about youth joblessness, and offers a range of policy recommendations for decision-makers.

The three research project conducted in the North of England has a number of important findings. One of these is that, nationally three-quarters of 16 to 18-year olds who are NEET come from households with at least one parent in work, and that normally they are out of work for relatively short periods (on average three months).

Moreover,   while generally NEET you people have lower than average qualifications, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many jobless graduates are also officially classified as NEET. Either way, the research found that most NEET youngsters want to work: although some ‘’churn’’ chronically between low-grade courses and poorly-paid, insecure jobs. On the few occasions those taking part in the study found decent, secure employment, they usually stuck with it.

Furthermore, although some are quick to label the jobless as a ‘feckless under-class’, Simmons and his team found that most NEET teenagers are essentially ordinary working-class with mainstream values, attitudes and opinions. Most wanted a paid job, a home and to start a family.

The research drew on a number of conclusions, some of which relate to education and training, which is often not effectively matched to young peoples’ needs and capabilities. Yet, it also argues that there’s a desperate need to stimulate demand across the economy, and for the jobs market to be effectively regulated.

In other words, an industrial strategy or policy is needed as noted by the Prime Minister Theresa May. Of-course we need a dose of realism here; long closed deep coal   mines or shipyards won’t re-open. But work in the green economy, in housing regeneration, on public infrastructure projects can be created. In the last three years Newcastle City Council in partnership with business community is investing in infrastructure, hotels, roads,  housing and ultra-fast broadband. This will help create much needed jobs, instil business   confidence, and give NEETs the meaningful opportunities they need.

The development of devolved regional authorities for Tees Valley and the North of the Tyne – part of the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative will shine a spotlight on Skills shortages, apprenticeships and adult training. However much more needs to be done to give our young people a brighter future. Significant changes in social and economic policy both at a regional level and in broader political economy are needed.

Stephen Lambert is Newcastle City Councillor. He is a member of the Policy North Advisory Board and member of the NE Devolution Commission.

Robin Simmons is Professor of Education at Huddersfield University. He is the author of ‘Work, Education and Social Change’ (2016)

WHAT NOW FOR LABOUR: FIGHTING FOR THE SOUL OF THE PARTY IN 2016.

By Stephen Lambert, Director, Education4Democracy NE

THE POLITICAL landscape of the left has changed under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party with some groups from the eighties re-emerging and some being formed. To some the ‘People’s Party’ is fast becoming ‘factionalised’ which threatens Labour’s existence as a big player in Britain’s liberal-democracy.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Historically, the Party has experienced divisions in the past such as the split between the left-leaning Bevanites and the right-wing Gaitskelites over issues such as public ownership and unilateralism in the 1950s. It wasn’t till the sixties under Wilson that the party became united: it was in Government 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1979.

With the election of   Mrs Thatcher’s ‘new-right’ Conservative administration, the schism opened up between the left-wing ‘Bennites, Militant Tendency infiltration and the ‘moderates led by Denis Healy which split the party, and the led to the formation of the breakaway SDP in 1981. The party was badly defeated in 1983, ’87 and ’92. As elder statesman Gerald Kaufman commented on Labour’s socialist manifesto in 1983 which committed the party to mass nationalisation, leaving the EEC and banning the bomb, ‘’it was the longest suicide note in history.’’ Labour got 8 million votes, 28% share of the vote and just managed to squeeze into second place ahead of the Liberal-SDP Alliance.

It was not until 1990 that Labour became a modernised united party under Neil Kinnock, the late John Smith and Tony Blair who achieve electoral success in 1997 with a landslide. This was repeated both 2001 and 2005 with an image and credible policy programme that was relevant and meaningful to working people and their families. By 2010 the Party lost under Brown and again badly under Ed Miliband in 2015 when the Conservative Party unexpectedly got a 12 seat majority!

In 2016 the Party is at war with itself again. This time between the hard-left ‘Corbynistas’ who dominate the membership and the moderates who make up the PLP and local government. But to some observers this is an over-simplification as the crude divide obscures underlying factionalism between groups :  some driven by ideological concerns, others by pragmatism. Who are they? What do they stand for?

Inside Labour there’s ‘Progress’, a long-standing group of moderates which acts as the voice of the ‘Blairites’. Key figures in the North East include former Spin doctor and Hartlepool MP, Lord Mandelson, Liz Kendall MP, a lead moderniser, who lost out badly in last year’s leadership contest, Darlington’s Alan Milburn, the Government’s Social Mobility Czar and Nick Forbes, the LGA Labour Chief. The group, under its leader Richard Angel, has restated its beliefs in ethical capitalism, equality and identity politics a round LGBT rights. It is hostile to Corbyn’s leadership which it views as a road to electoral oblivion. The hard-left in the Party regards Progress with suspicion with its big business funding, annual conference, covert ‘neo-liberal’ ideology and hidden membership base. To the left, the faction is a ‘’party within a party’’.

‘Labour First’ is an established group made up of the party’s traditional centre-right with roots in the trade union movement and has its power base in Parliament and Town Halls. The key figures include Jon Cruddas, author of ‘Blue Labour’ and Durham MP Kevan Jones, ex-chief whip on Newcastle Council. It’s well organised, machine-based, pragmatic andhas no faith in Corbyn’s stewardship.

‘Momentum’, a hard-left grouping set up last summer by young idealistic supporters of Corbyn who aim to develop it as a grassroots social movement. For Labour’s new members ‘Jeremy’ is a ‘’symbol, a totem of belief’ to the author Polly Toynbee. Yet its membership is not reflective of Labour’s core working-class vote. Tim Bales’ study reveals that 78% are middle-class including its media spokesman James Sneider.

Based on survey evidence from 200 CLP secretaries very few were prepared to leaflet or canvass in local elections or the EU Referendum. Chairedby Jon Lansman, a former ‘Bennite’, Momentum’s regional leaders are Cllr Martin Gannon, leader, Gateshead Council, David Stockdale, Corbyn’sNorth-East Campaign Manager and Tony Dowling of the Marxist TUSC. Its ideological roots are firmly in the hard=left socialism. The faction is developing a democratic structure and employs four workers in London, but its funding remain unknown. Critics regard it as a far-left  ‘entryist’   front organisation for Workers Liberty, Left Unity and Socialist Party (known as ‘Militant’). Although   moderates want it shut down, Momentum’s leadership insist the key decision-making is confined only to Labour members.

With rising tensions within Labour over allegations of ‘entryism’, anti-semitism, on-line bullying, weak opinion poll ratings and outright antagonism to Labour’s leader, the Party consolidated its electoral grip in the country’s core cities like London, Leeds, Bristol and Liverpool, it did very badly in both Scotland and in ‘Middle-England’. The Party’s collapse in Scotland and its poor performance in new towns has profound implications whether Labour can win in 2020 with or without Corbyn. Corbyn is being challenged by the relatively unknown soft-left Welsh MP Owen Smith.

Although the ‘Blairite’ wing want Corbyn out on the grounds of his leftist ideological inflexibility, for most MPs, Peers and local government leaders it’s his incompetence, lack of ability, weak judgement and lack of people skills. To his colleagues Jeremy is no team player. Two-thirds ofhis shadow cabinet have resigned. Survey evidence shows that ‘ordinary’ Labour voters, alongside 3 m ‘swing voters’ believe that he’s not up to the job as a prospective PM. The latest Com Res Poll reveals that only 13% view him as a ‘’strong leader’’. Although Labour is developing sensible policies on the economy, education, climate change and tackling inequality, the vast majority of the electorate distrust Corbyn’s views on national security and foreign affairs.

With Labour’s rank and file now 500,000 (plus 183,500 registered supporters) the indicator is that Corbyn will win big over Smith in September 2016. In the short term a ‘’war of attrition’ is likely, Failure to oppose the ‘loony left’ as noted by Pat Ainley, a top left-wing educationalist, could further alienate millions of white-working class ‘Brexit’ voters who already feel disconnected both from the metropolitan liberal-left leadership and from some aspects of democracy itself. As Ainley warns, ‘’the time could be ripe for a fascist solution’’!

The long-term outcome is uncertain. Labour could fracture into two parties: one the ‘Corbynite’ hard-left’, which controls the CLPs, branches and affiliated trades unions, the other a ‘social democratic group (with a Blairite rump) with its presence in the PLP, the Lords, the European Parliament and in local governance. Serious experts like John Curtess believe that Labour in its current shape faces its worst general election defeat since 1931 with the possible loss of over 100 seats. Under May, the Conservative Party will win in both the South and across the Midlands while a rejuvenated UKIP under a new leader could make huge inroads in the North of England, urban Wales and disadvantaged coastal towns from Blackpool to Blyth. A failure to win the general election Ainley warns will leave ‘’former-industrial areas to UKIP which could establish the base that proto-fascism needs at street level’’ a chilling prospect for liberal-democracy.

Unless there’s a serious re-alignment on the centre-left based on a radical change to the voting system to PR the country will experience at least two decades of Conservative administration. Labour will cease to be a political force in the second decade. By 2030 it could die.

 

The elected Metro Mayor for the North East is here to stay: But we've been here before: Stephen Lambert maps out the controversial career of T.Dan Smit

By Stephen Lambert is director of Education4Democracy NE.

With the Government and six local councils signed up for a new devolved Combined Authority with an elected mayor the race for the top job has begun. Top businessman and philanthropist Jeremy Middleton is the first to throw his hat into the ring with the backing of the business community while Labour, the Lib-Dems and Ukip have yet to put in.

Although touted as a new idea by Lord Heseltine and Tony Blair, elected mayors are not a new phenomena. They’ve been around for decades in both America and Europe with Bill De Blasia of New York and Ada Colau, Barcelona’s first woman mayor since 2013.

In the UK the elected Mayor model has been a feature of several cities such as London with controversial figureheads like Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson and Liverpool with Joe Anderson, Hartlepool and North Tyneside. The Government has imposed the Mayor to go hand in hand with a Cabinet run North East Combined Authority.

Historically we’ve been here before. One variant of this can be seen with the rise of the charismatic town hall boss T. Dan Smith in both Newcastle and our region. Dismissed by many as a corrupt politician on the make some writers ranging from Lib-Dem leader Chris Foot-Wood and democratic socialist Nigel Todd, provide an alternative perspective on Smith’s tenure as leader of Labour run Newcastle City Council 1960-65 and his role as the unofficial leader of the North east till 1973.

Dan Smith, a working class bloke, was a revolutionary socialist in his youth, but mellowed by 1950 when elected to Newcastle Council representing the riverside seat of Walker. Smith by 1955 was running a booming painting anddecorating business on Tyneside. He had time to become active in public life. His rise in local government was spectacular. In 1960 he became leader of the City Council based on an effective electoral machine.

It’s true that Smith got caught up with fraud and property scandals with John Poulson, a London architect, and made a number of blunders which blighted the city centre such as the destruction of the old Royal Arcade. But as north east councillors Todd and Foot-Wood stress this shouldn’t distract from his major achievements.

Smith, in his personalised jag ‘Dan68’, was a man with a plan, a visionary, who wanted to put the North East on the map. Known as ‘Mr Big’, ‘Mr Newcastle’ and the ‘Voice of the North’, T. Dan was without doubt a charismatic, able and witty politician who could connect with the business community, the trade union movement and the industrial working class. Throughout the sixties Smith transformed Newcastle from a backwood looking, neglected, provincial backwater into a forward thinking ‘dynamic, modern metropolis’ with the ambition of making our region the ‘new Brasilia’ and ‘Venice of the North’.

Smith, a moderniser when Tony Blair was a boy in Durham City, was able to develop the region as an economic powerhouse (before the term was coined) to rival cities like Leeds and Manchester while spearheading Newcastle as the regional capital as ‘’renaissance city of education, night spots and public arts.’’

Alderman Smith was both committed and passionate about opening up educational opportunities in a region which had been denied them in contrast to the south east. He laid down the foundations of transforming the city’s archaic poor performing secondary modern schools which most went to having failed the discredited 11-plus (like myself). By 1968 Newcastle had embraced the Comprehensive principle of equality of opportunity with the aim of tearing down stubborn class barriers and inequalities. Kenton was one of the first Comprehensive schools in the city dubbed ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

‘Kings College’, a branch of Durham University, was rebranded Newcastle University with investment alongside the development of the Polytechnic and the College of Arts and Technology (Newcastle College). As Todd points out Smith insisted that the latter be sited in the heart of the city where it would form part of a ‘critical mass’ of educational provision coupled with a new central library and department in the impressive modernist Civic Centre – a protected building.

Smith was responsible for demolishing the slums in both the east and west end of the city with new housing developments in Cruddas Park and the Grade 11 listed Byker Wall as well as promoting joined up thinking and action with other public authorities and investors. Foot-Wood notes he preserved the city’s historic walls and regenerated the Victorian parks, cleaned up the river Tyne and developed the Airport now regarded as international in scope with direct flights to NYC

He was also directly responsible for the Eldon Square in the heart of our city which not only met the consumer demands of the region’s shoppers but pulled in thousands of visitors from Scandinavia too. The Tyne and Wear integrated metro system, based on the one in Paris, is one of Smith’s most innovative transport policies. His failure wasn’t so much in bringing in ‘concrete monstrosities’ or brutal styles of architecture (most took place after Smith’s rule), but in failing to persuade the bosses of Newcastle United Football club to convert St. James’ Park into an accessible community facility.

Smith, a successful entrepreneur and top civic figure, was brought down in a succession of corruption scandals, involving property developers, architects, planners, ‘bent’ police officers, PR consultants and a Conservative Cabinet Minister – many with masonic links. Smith paid a heavy price of being greedy and getting caught up in an inter-connected web of fraud and bribery. He, John Poulson and Durham Council boss Andy Cunningham were convicted with prison sentences. But arguably Smith was a pawn in an Establishment/MI5 sting in which the big fish got away.

Today Smith’s legacy invokes a bizarre combination of anger, shock, condemnation, admiration and nostalgia.

The T. Dan story is known to millions leading to the award winning TV drama ‘OurFriends in the North’ in 1996. Despite widespread corruption with many lining their own pockets, Smith’s accomplishments shouldn’t be overlooked. Smith was a man ahead of his time. Sir Jeremy Beecham, a former leader of the council concludes, ‘’T. Dan Smith was a pioneering leader of active local government, a civic leader and hugely charismatic.’’

As the region prepares itself for its first metro Mayor in 2017 the claim of over-concentration of power in the hands of one person can be prevented by having a robust governance model based on scrutiny and overview. Whoever gets the top job it’s unlikely they’ll be able to rival T. Dan Smith, the region’s ‘Voice of the North’. 

 

Why capital gains are key to region's growth plans

David Harrison, managing partner, True Potential LLP

The North East has been my home since I was a child growing up in County Durham. I have worked locally in manufacturing and construction and, for the last three decades, in financial services, employing thousands of people.

Living here and starting then growing businesses in the region has given me a good understanding of the issues affecting and holding back the North East.

We have some tremendous assets, with a rich industrial heritage, buoyant tourism industry and dedicated workforce with real grit and determination. But we should demand more and strive for better. The North East, and Newcastle in particular, was once THE powerhouse of the UK with a GDP to rival any other in the world – the equivalent of Qatar now.

The story of the North East's decline has been well told and issues such as skills, education, productivity and public sector dependency continue to inspire much debate. With the lowest Gross Value Added (GVA) per head in the country at £18, 216, compared to London's £42,666 (based on 2014 activity), a powerhouse we are not.  

But, as evidenced by the huge potential of our start-up communities, our manufacturing prowess and growing reputation as a breeding ground for tech successes, we could be once more.

Given our relatively small size, the region should be nimble, agile and entrepreneurial. But we are fragmented, bureaucratic in our approach and petty local political in-fighting is rife.

A new approach

Success in business comes by achieving focus. That means knowing what the first thing to do is and only doing that. We should employ this approach to the region's economic development – focus on one priority and only one, and therefore avoid distraction and dilution. 

There is one stand-out issue which, if tackled, could breathe new life into the region on many levels; we urgently need better, faster transport connections.

Of course, there are many transport projects that compete for attention. But now that local political leaders have shamefully failed to agree a devolution deal, we will miss out on £1bn for the region. Funds are and will remain tight, so where should the priority be?

I am not against the idea of a Northern Powerhouse. Getting more from the UK's great northern cities is a sensible strategy, but there remains one key missing ingredient for me; there are no natural ties between Newcastle and the other cities under the Northern Powerhouse. In truth, there never have been. I believe this is a fundamental reason why some in the North East struggle with the concept.

Our natural tie has always been with London. It is faster to get there than Manchester – and we could improve that even more by getting travelling time down to maximum of a couple of hours. Crucially, it is in that direction that we should look. 

Past governments should have invested in high speed trains, while recent efforts and HS2 appear again to have a North West bias under current plans, missing out our region where the stimulus is really needed.

At the last count, spending on railways per head of population in the North East was £50 – compared to £85 in the North West, £100 in Yorkshire and the Humber and £298 in London. A more even spread of investment across the North is surely long overdue.

But it is not just about better rail connections. Part of an integrated solution is to achieve more air links to Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports.

This may well need short term subsidy, but the potential to really open up the North East to business and therefore opportunities and growth, would make it a sound investment. 

Image problem

The North East suffers from the national and international perception that we are remote and difficult to get to.

This means our great innovations here have higher barriers to overcome than those elsewhere if they are to lure the investment and opportunities of London up the A1.

Last year the North East saw by far the biggest decline of any region in the number of businesses based within its boundaries. A 10 percent drop in this region against a five and eight percent rise in the North West and Yorkshire respectively is concerning. I wonder how many of the departed enterprises upped sticks in search of better connected places to do business.  

True Potential is a fund manager, as well as an IT developer. We employ 1000s of financial advisers throughout the UK.

Crucially, a lot of our success comes as a result of where we are based – we can and do get the cream of IT personnel because of our proximity to world class universities.  Our easy access to Edinburgh means the second largest fund management hub in the UK is commuting distance from us.  We have major shareholders based in San Francisco and New York.  We manage fund managers based in USA, Switzerland, Germany, and London.

The same fund management expertise cannot be found in Manchester so there is not the business case to warrant a regular commute. Worse, a link to Manchester could drain us of talent.

The UK is also now an official sovereign state. That means we have to trade worldwide, which may also include Europe, but has to include the non-EU countries.

Transport is the key for us, as well as connectivity.  We are not alone. The common denominator for all businesses is transport links to London and the wider world.  Even trying to attract new talent is hindered by slow train times that are also hugely expensive, and very few flights per day, limited to only one London airport.

 

Tech giants, search engine empires and online retail behemoths could be equally at home here with the better links to London that we're crying out for. 

Decreasing train journey times to the capital will allow more journeys on the same line. In the meantime, we should make it a priority by whatever means to increase the air routes to London. That would deliver an immediate actual and 'external perception' improvement for our region.

A new settlement

The North East is desperate for a new economic vision and the failure of our local councils to agree a devolution deal is depressing. The opportunity to set our own course with serious cash to spend as we decide appears to have been squandered. 

Where do we go from here?

Enterprise Zones have been set up in parts of the region in an attempt to kick start investment but I would like Westminster to go much further. If they are serious about regional development and northern growth, I would like to see the Government commit to a free port structure for Tyne and Wear – effectively turning the area into one enterprise zone. Much is made of Nissan's presence here but under a fresh vision for the region with its own tax arrangements, we could bring a lot more Nissans here with lower rates and more flexible regulation.

Exporting public sector jobs that soon disappear from the south to the North East is not the solution. It is both a short-term and narrow way of thinking that actually holds us back.

Too much emphasis on shoehorning Newcastle into a blueprint for the North could kill off the city's chances of strong growth. Nor should we hold back other northern cities that have more logical connections with each other. Our focus in terms of fulfilling our potential should be on our connectivity with London and the rest of the world.

Faster links to the rest of the world – and nothing else – will set us free and enable us to truly compete and realise our undoubted potential.

Finally, we shouldn't limit the word transport to simply the physical – very fast broadband links (Japanese speeds) to the region would help tremendously. And not just in terms of IT companies, but indeed all of the many service industries we now host in our region would benefit.

So: Planes, Trains, and Cables brought about under a free port structure. Put Newcastle in a direct fast and frequent line to London and see what happens. 

While some in the region fight among themselves, Manchester gets even more wealthy. To be frank, we are in competition for scarce resources.

Powerhouse politics will make our own situation worse. We need to get moving.

 

The Success Imperative for the Northern Powerhouse : Reflections on an Innovation-Driven Approach

By Prof. Roy Sandbach

The BBC commented the other day that the Northern Powerhouse has not apparently reached the consciousness of many people in the North of England : a somewhat misleading analysis of data but with serious grains of truth.

Should we be surprised ? Not at all. In today’s world people only really engage with things that interest them, are relevant or fun. The Northern Powerhouse in this context is a brand without a product and a concept without content. It risks being something messily bound up with the regional devolution discussion and tedious, short-term, dogmatic political debate about elected mayors and cuts to services. In fact, while these are certainly important questions of local ownership and democracy, the Northern Powerhouse has so much more potential for gain, but only if we grasp it and bring vibrancy to the concept.

How might we make it big, relevant and economically valuable? : 

Whether it had its genesis in a party political context does not matter. What does matter is that it has given all of us the chance to discuss a big and broad and vision-led question.

Essentially, this is :

“How do we develop a more balanced UK economy in part to deal with Northern provincial inequalities (including those in the North East) but, further, to create a 21st century global competitive advantage.”

Our quest should be for a Northern Powerhouse which creates wealth to benefit the whole of the North, using our cross-regional synergies in a long-term initiative, with short-term actions, which we can all get behind and feel proud of.

The world is changing faster than we have ever known. More data have been produced in the past two years than in the whole of previous human existence. Mobiles, wi-fi, on-line shopping, viable electric cars, apps, digital photography, on-demand TV, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Uber, AirBnB : all of these are less than 15 years old. So we need agile vision. We need big vision. We certainly need a vision :

Imagine that in 50 years’ time, we have created a Northern Powerhouse. What ought to be its principal elements ?

A coherent cross-regional digital platform of huge reach. This engagement platform could allow businesses across the North seamlessly to access data, collaborate to solve day-to-day problems, share information on global market opportunities and recruit people/capacity for their operations. Shouldn’t digital engagement be at the very core of the Northern Powerhouse discussion? This is an area of significant skill-strength in the North East.

Agility in embracing change. We could have played a leading role in robotics applications for individual & community benefit, dealing with the internet-of-things connectivity, monetising big data, applying leading edge well-being & health processes/tools etc. Ought not the development of a Northern innovation observatory & change-awareness strategy be part of the Powerhouse discussion?

Our own Northern Facebooks, Apples and Amazons. We have a long way to go to address this. The number of businesses for every 10000 people in the North East is only 600 : no other UK region has fewer than 800. Santander tell us that aspiration is the issue.  Surely, that should be at the heart of the Powerhouse vision? Note that this entails putting in place successfully tested enterprise support systems to encourage great young creative people to not only be entrepreneurial but to stay here.  There are existing initiatives across the Northern Powerhouse from which a coherent strategy could be developed.

A confident, competent and inclusive workforce. It is intolerable to see 23% of 16-24 year olds in the North East not in Education, Employment or Training (the second highest percentage in the country is in the North West, at 15%). How many of our young people does this represent? Imagine a Great North Run populated with only ‘NEETs’ : this is the size of the issue for the North East : 69000 (up by 40% since 2002). This requires a crisis mentality and non-bureaucratic and discontinuous interventions. We also need interventions that allow our schools and colleges to properly develop the power of gender & ethnic diversity. Should not we use the Northern Powerhouse to build big Northern skills plans using global best practice? It is hard to understand why there is a Northern Powerhouse Minister for Transport, but no Northern Powerhouse Minister for Skills., nor, indeed, for Innovation.

Partnerships with growth economies in Africa & South America. The clearer we are on our unique strengths, the bigger their interest will be in partnering with us. Shouldn’t we have a Northern Powerhouse position on where our truly globally relevant innovation & economic strengths are? They may relate to the cloud and computing capability; extreme environment technology; agri-tech; gaming; or advanced manufacturing, but this needs considered and rigorous smart specialisation analysis.

There is a serious opportunity for a Northern Powerhouse Innovation Leadership Group, potentially driven by the N8 Universities, TechNorth, InnovateUK, the Knowledge Transfer Network and other innovation-centric agencies.

In the end, it might be that in 50 years we have an integrated North and the local council concepts of today are considered prehistoric. We might have a single OneNorth mega-city. This is certainly not impossible. One thing is for sure : we need to use the Northern Powerhouse concept to examine these dramatic change opportunities, or our region will be left behind; we will depend on others and there will be little left to be really proud of.