Elected Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham have proposed that the first-ever Convention of the North be held in late June this year in Newcastle.
Major decisions are looming this year on rail investment and Brexit which will have a huge bearing on the North of England. In an invitation letter to a late March planning meeting, to other Northern leaders, the two Mayors say that the North is more likely to get the right decisions if it comes together and speaks with one voice.
The Convention of the North will provide a focal point for the Northern Powerhouse Rail which is being launched this week by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Later this year, the government will be making key decisions on its plans for HS2 in the North and there are fears that cost-cutting on HS2 will limit options for Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Convention will provide a platform to set out the shared position of Northern Mayors and leaders ahead of the autumn Budget.
It is proposed that the first Convention of the North will be in late June, alongside the Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle and Gateshead. The Great Exhibition is a celebration of Northern culture and identify and takes place across the summer.
It is proposed that the Convention will be cross-party and include representation from all parts of Northern England and from business and civic leaders. It is likely to focus on three main agenda items:
1. Rail investment: Northern leaders are calling on government to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), staring with a new city centre station in Liverpool, at the same time as HS2 and for the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station to allow an ambitious Northern Powerhouse Rail to be built. These improvements would create thousands of jobs, increase productivity, and attract significant overseas investment, narrowing the North-South divide.
2. Brexit: The Convention will provide an opportunity for Northern leaders to repeat their call for a seat at the Brexit discussions. Currently, the Mayor of London, devolved administrations and a committee with the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands can have their say but there is no permanent seat at the table for the English regions.
3. Devolution: The Convention will allow all parts of the North to call for further devolution. Political, civic and business leaders will be able to set out plans for further and faster devolution, giving the North the chance to shape its own future.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said:
“If we sit back and leave it to old Westminster way of doing things, there is a real risk that North will end up with second-class transport plans and a London-centric Brexit.
“Through devolution, we have a real chance of rebalancing this country from South to North. The Convention of the North could give the North a louder voice than it has ever had before and help to get us the right decisions on rail investment, Brexit and further devolution.
“The time has come for real change in the way our country works and in our politics. By bringing together business and civic leaders alongside political leaders, we believe we can give a powerful voice to communities which have traditionally been neglected in our over-centralised democratic structures. Westminster has created a large North-South divide in our country and closing it won’t come from the same-old but from truly new thinking.
“People in the North have been promised a Northern Powerhouse and this Convention will be the way of making sure they get it.”
Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram said:
“When civic leaders in the North built the world’s first ever passenger railway they were forging an industrial revolution that changed the world. It is absolutely vital that we regain that level of autonomy and ambition if we are to unleash the potential of a new Northern Powerhouse. It’s about coming together to set and deliver our own priorities and the projects that will have the biggest and most sustainable impacts.
“A new west to east rail line starting at a brand new City Centre station in Liverpool and connecting the other great cities of the North via Manchester is the key to unlocking prosperity for communities in every part of the North. 200 years after we built the first ever inter-city railway, it’s time now to build infrastructure fit for a 21st Century economic vision.”
The Northern Powerhouse Rail Campaign is set to be launched in London on Tuesday by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership as later this year decisions are being made by government on HS2 at Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds which will have a huge bearing on ambitions for Northern Powerhouse Rail. At this event Andy Burnham will set out how the Convention of the North will be a focal point for the campaign in late June.
The call for a Convention of the North follows last August’s Transport Summit which brought together political and business Leaders from across major Northern cities for the first time after the Transport Secretary cast doubt over promised improvements to Northern railways.