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Convention of the North - unlocking the region's potential

Skyline view of Sheffield buildings with dusky sunset
Skyline view of Sheffield city centre

Ideas for unlocking the region’s potential set out ahead of Convention of the North 2023

Northern leaders have outlined a clear set of ideas to unlock and deliver the region’s potential ahead of Convention of the North 2023. 

Convening the North has been developed collectively by local government, businesses and think tanks from across the North. The report outlines the opportunities and challenges facing the region and sets out a series of policy propositions that will form the basis of discussion at the upcoming Convention of the North, which will be held on Wednesday January 25 in Manchester.

In clean energy, the North can play a leading role in driving the net zero transition. Half of the UK’s energy generating capacity is situated in the region, and the North has a good mix of natural assets and existing skills to support a just transition, creating thousands of high-quality jobs in the process.

To grow the region’s economy and attract private investment, people in the North need to be connected by a fast and reliable transport system and digital connectivity. With three quarters of the North’s population now covered by a devolution deal, local leaders have the chance to develop integrated transport systems that better link people to local opportunities, while delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail in full would connect the North’s towns and cities and unlock significant economic potential.

Convening the North also highlights the fundamental link between the region’s poor health and economic underperformance. It calls for action at the pan-Northern level to deal with the lingering impacts of the pandemic, improve housing, and address the North’s higher levels of economic inactivity due to ill health, as well as public health interventions that focus on the wider causes of health inequality.

Addressing the regional imbalance in R&D spending should be prioritised, particularly to build on existing strengths in clean energy, digital, advanced manufacturing and health innovation. Greater devolution of skills funding and policy would enable local areas to support businesses with the skills they need – both now and in the future.

Better co-ordination of international trade and investment efforts across the North could help the region become more globally competitive. A more compelling place proposition would promote sector specialisms and world-leading cultural assets, increasing trade flows and attracting more foreign investment and visitors to the region.  

Convention of the North 2023, taking place at Manchester Central on Wednesday 25 January, is the region’s major annual gathering, bringing together the North’s business, political and civic leaders. The Convening the North report will form the basis for the debates that will take place at the Convention, as the North shapes its agenda for 2023. 

Councillor Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council, will be joined by Deputy Leader, Councillor Julie Grocutt, and Chief Executive, Kate Josephs in attending Convention of the North next week.

Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Terry Fox said:

"Sheffield is proud to stand together with northern leaders, working towards our full potential as a region. The Government’s Levelling Up announcement today left us out of the funding awards and is yet another example of their disproportionate investment in northern projects. 

"As we work hard to support people through the current cost of living pressures, it is more crucial than ever that we work together to level up the North and utilise our assets, enabling a strong and stable future that supports economic growth not only for our region but the whole country. 

“For Sheffield, for South Yorkshire, for the North, we’re joining forces as one strong voice, together in one place, with a shared plan to make Government take notice and give the North the recognition we truly deserve."

The event is being delivered by Greater Manchester alongside NP11 and is sponsored by Growth Flag (in partnership with the Growth Company and Red Flag Alert), MAG: Manchester Airports Group, and The University of Manchester.

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of NP11 and Co-Chair of Convention of the North, said:

“Our region has the assets, people and potential to power the UK’s future economy. The Convention of the North provides the opportunity to assess the challenges and opportunities facing our region and define our priorities for the years ahead.

“To transform our region we need a plan developed by the North and for the North, with input from the people, institutions and businesses who live and work here. By taking a co-ordinated and collaborative approach – both across our region and with Government – we can create a more prosperous and productive North.”   

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and Co-Chair of Convention of the North, said:

“It’s never been more important for the North to speak with one voice. The cost-of-living crisis, and the pandemic which came before it, have put real pressure on our communities. These challenges have made the need for an integrated approach to improving productivity, prosperity and inclusion in our region more urgent.

“We are clear: the North can drive the growth that improves all of the UK, and the right support, policies and investments could enable the North to grow faster than any other part of the country by 2050. Through the Convention of the North we will develop a plan that delivers for people, communities and economies across the North, creating an environment where the region can realise its collective potential.”

The Convention of the North will debate the challenges and propositions discussed in Convening the North. Once the programme of work is agreed, the Convention Steering Group will it take forward over the coming year in the run up to the 2024 Convention, which will be held in West Yorkshire.