Following a challenging year for many in the region, business and political leaders representing Northern England have shared their optimism and hopes for the coming year.
In a New Year’s message, devolution-focused public affairs agency, DevoConnect shared the hopes for 2021 of a number of regional leaders from Northern England.
Greater Manchester Andy Burnham hoped that inequalities between regions exposed by Covid-19 would begin to be resolved in the coming year. He said:
2021 is a chance to reset and renew. The Recovery has to be localised. Local leaders across the North need the funding and powers to help our places to recover from the pandemic and Build Back Better. I want to see better public transport, skills and retraining for those who need it and a greener, fairer economy.”
His thoughts were echoed by Northern Powerhouse Partnership Vice-Chair, Lord Jim O’Neill:
I hope in 2021 that Covid-19 is brought under control for obvious reasons, but also because it would stop any legitimate excuses for the government from pursuing more seriously its commitment to the levelling up agenda, especially towards the Northern Powerhouse, including of course, on devolution.”
CEO of DevoConnect, Gill Morris, also called for 2021 to herald further powers and devolution to be given to local leaders, following the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit deal. She said:
I want to see some vim and vigour put into levelling-up. Will this government have the courage and foresight to deliver for the ‘left behind’ communities and commit to delivering more devolved powers in our regions? It’s no good saying, ‘we have taken back control’ if that control is so heavily centralised and works against rebalancing the economy.
“This is a time like no other so why not boost existing Metro Mayors’ powers so they can take full control of their regions’ growth and recovery.”
North-West Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Emma Antrobus, meanwhile called for a chance to discuss a greener future as the Covid-19 vaccine begins to be rolled out. She commented:
I am hoping that 2021 brings vaccine-fuelled stability enabling us to meet, talk and plan together for a greener, stronger future underpinned by a desire to deliver on clear outcomes within the context of a level playing field.”