Steve Rotheram says Liverpool City Region could be an industrial powerhouse for UK, but devolution is the key

Steve Rotheram has responded to the publication of the UK’s Industrial Strategy by saying he believes that the area can be a powerhouse for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but only if the Government delivers on its commitments to devolution and re-balancing.

The Industrial Strategy sets out to define the UK’s role in a post-Brexit world and focuses on research and technology as the key to raise productivity and boost future growth.

The strategy identifies key sectors where the UK has potential competitive strength, and the Metro Mayor believes that these are all areas where the Liverpool City Region also has an established offer or exceptional growth potential. In a key note speech two weeks ago, he outlined his vision to put the City Region at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by developing its competitive edge in renewable energy, digital innovation, advanced manufacturing and life sciences.

Steve Rotheram said:

“We have a collection of world class research assets, global companies and transformational investment projects like the Mersey Tidal energy scheme, that can make us a positive economic asset for the UK in the future, but only if the government is genuinely committed to rebalancing and supporting growth outside the M25 and the so-called Golden Triangle.”

The Metro pointed to a number of key challenges that he believes could inhibit the ambitions of the Industrial Strategy including:

  • A centralised approach to skills and apprenticeships that sees record number of young people failing to complete work schemes
  • An ongoing imbalance in infrastructure investment with Government still appearing to favour London by backing Crossrail 2 and not yet committing to Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • A structural bias in research and innovation investment with nearly half the awards made by the UK’s seven Research Councils going to Oxford, Cambridge and London, and 12 out of 13 of the UKRI’s non-executive s living in the South East of England

Steve Rotheram added:

“Clearly the biggest challenge to raising UK productivity resides in those regions that have been denied investment, experience poor connectivity and where there are the biggest skills deficits. As long as we have a southern-dominated cabinet, southern-dominated civil service and a deep seated structural bias towards one part of the country, it is inevitable that this country will never reach its full productive potential. The only antidote to this is more and deeper devolution.”

Their prescriptions include:

  • Immediate extension of powers over skills and apprenticeships, with greater flexibility over the Apprenticeship Levy funding, an emphasis on aligning skills with local economic strategies, and radically improving opportunities to address the gender imbalance in digital and technical sectors
  • A more equitable share of national infrastructure investment to support key City Region priorities for digital connectivity and tidal energy
  • An unequivocal commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail (or Crossrail for the North) to boost agglomeration potential between Northern cities
  • A new treasury formula for evaluating infrastructure and investment decisions that is explicitly linked to their re-balancing impact