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CN Briefing: Northern Powerhouse; Industrial Strategy; Midlands Engine

If you’ve had time to thumb your way through the government’s 132-page Industrial Strategy green paper, you might have noticed the Northern Powerhouse has quite a lot to be happy about.

A commitment to devolution was reaffirmed as the government said it would continue to support better local decision-making structures for infrastructure planning, such as regional bodies like Transport for the North.

Ten so-called ‘Trade Missions’ had been penned into the 2017 diary to encourage investment into the Northern Powerhouse (with 30 more planned over the next three years).

Not to mention the £556m funding that was divvied out to Local Enterprise Partnerships in the North today.

The 11 LEPs received their slice of the funding, with projects like the Goole Intermodal Terminal and a conference centre and hotel scheme in Blackpool given an extra boost.

First prize went to Greater Manchester who were allocated the largest portion of Theresa May’s big giveaway funding at £130.1m.

Second and third place went to Liverpool City Region and Lancashire who were given £72m and £69.8m respectively.

The North of England looks like it will hold its title of top dog, but let’s address that middle England elephant in the room.

What’s happened to the Midlands Engine?

Although the government outlined improving connectivity in the region through the Midlands Rail Hub and Midlands Connect transport programme forward in the Industrial Strategy green paper, there was significantly less fanfare around developing the region.

However, a BEIS spokeswoman assured me that the government hadn’t forgotten the region, saying: “The Midlands Engine is an important part of the UK economy and an individual strategy for this region is coming soon, building on £392m of growth deal funding announced at Autumn Statement.”

So what’s the response from the region?

West Midlands Combined Authority leader Bob Sleigh didn’t seem unperturbed by the North’s extra boost today.

“Let’s be frank: the Northern Powerhouse, our friends in the north, their timeline has been different to ours.

“The announcement, in essence, follows the Northern Powerhouse strategy, which has been published. What I’d expect is when the Midlands Engine strategy is produced that these are some of the discussions we’ll be having with them as well.

“I think it is just a case of timing really.”

With a Midlands Rail Hub report to be issued in March and with a Midlands Engine paper to be released soon, it looks like the region is playing catch up – for the time being anyway.

Also in the news:

East West Rail has chosen Phil Verster to manage delivery of its proposed Oxford-to-Cambridge rail project.

Exclusive: Bowmer & Kirkland has been chosen for a major £20m hospital regeneration scheme in Altrincham, south Manchester.

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