Northern Powerhouse Q&A - Kevin Parkes

Back Northern Powerhouse Q&A - Kevin Parkes

Northern Powerhouse Q&A with Kevin Parkes, Executive Director of Growth & Place at Middlesbrough Council.

How important do you think the Northern Powerhouse is?

It’s very important and its emphasis is increasing. It’s providing a much needed strategic, national approach to regenerating the regions outside the home counties.

What will it mean for Northern councils?

I think how it’s been rolled out in terms of areas more distant than Manchester and Leeds, probably needs to be given some consideration outside the big core cities. There are areas such as Middlesbrough and Teesside that would find it greatly beneficial if they had more of a direct dialogue with the Northern Powerhouse on a variety of issues, so that the needs and issues for places like this are better understood.

What do you hope it achieves?

It’s got to help contribute to a national strategy for economic and social convergence for the UK. To stop the polarisation of the country into two nations of the perhaps and the perhaps not.

What has it done for you already?

So far, the emphasis on rail in particular has been very helpful and very well managed. It has given a much-needed boost to the investment, dialogue and strategy associated with rail in the north. I think the approach for rail has to be replicated across other areas of public policy and intervention including inward investment, housing and strategic planning.

Now we have a majority government, what commitment would you like to see?

I’d like to see them come quickly on their commitments on the future High Streets Fund, The Towns Fund and support the development of modern infrastructure. This includes better connectivity between the main northern conurbations such as Teesside, Liverpool and Manchester. A clear economic strategy for how to regenerate the north in terms of creation of jobs, wealth and opportunity. And finally, I’d like them to seriously address the most rundown and deprived communities in the north and support the areas that are clearly suffering from long term terminal decline.

What feelings do you have on devolution?

Positive, I think it’s brilliant.

It’s great to have investment devolved from Whitehall. I think there’s a bit further needed to go and we should be embracing it in the north. Transpiring of the powers and decision making, I think that is still a bit of a mixed bag, I still think that there’s much more needed to be done. There’s a degree of protectionism, more probably from the civil servants in Whitehall towards their own department and there needs to be an acceleration of devolution. It’s proving to be a very positive impetus in terms of creating momentum for social and economic regeneration in areas like Teesside and Middlesbrough.

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