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MIPIM UK: Northern Powerhouse ‘needs transport funding commitment’

North West leaders have called for government commitment to major projects and industry needs to be addressed in light of Brexit.

Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein; Wirral Council leader, Councillor Phil Davies and Liverpool City Council chief Ged Fitzgerald took part in MIPIM UK discussions on the region’s challenges following the EU referendum and the future of the Northern Powerhouse strategy.

FItzgerald told delegates the “Northern Powerhouse existed before the Northern Powerhouse on the basis of emphasising rebalance” in the economy and the region’s key cities will continue to work towards achieving the goal as well as taking opportunities, regardless of whether the government’s focus shifts.

Acknowledging that the new government will now have priorities including Brexit negotiations to consider as well as keeping the Norhern Powerhouse agenda on track, the leaders did call for commitment to major infrastructure schemes such as HS2 and HS3 to allow the North to succeed.

Cllr Davies said: “I think there’s an onus on the government to not just come out with Northern Powerhouse rhetoric but to come out with investment for the opportunities.

“I’m looking forward, hopefully, to some positive announcements from the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement.”

Sir Berstein agreed, adding: “We’ve heard all the right noises during the last couple of months over the Autumn Statement, and we need to see this being turned into commitment to projects and funding.

“Unless we see big transport investments the Northern Powerhouse will not exist because we need that infrastructure.”

Insisting Manchester will always be a European city during the discussions, the chief executive also called for issues including the country’s pipeline of skills to be addressed to enable growth across industries post-Brexit.

He said: “If Brexit means anything it’s about how we sort out our skills system.

“You can’t, on the one hand, say you want to reduce economic migration and not recognise there’s a problem with our skills system.

“We’ve got to have a system that produces the skills and fundamentally we don’t have that at the moment.”