Cllr Alex Williams is the Deputy Leader of Trafford Council.
Following the huge events of the past seven days, nominations will close today for the biggest job in British politics with the repatriation of power from the EU the key deliverable in the job description. I’d like to add another – commitment to further devolution of power and a Conservative led economic revival of the north.
Whilst to some the ambition of a Northern Powerhouse governed locally is just a soundbite, tangible evidence of the economic impact is already starting to show in Greater Manchester. Let’s take two key economic indicators as examples – job growth and net inward investment.
Greater Manchester is now creating jobs at a faster rate than London with employment growth quicker than in any other large UK city. More professional services jobs have been created in the North-West than Greater London over the last 12 months.
Since 2010, Manchester has created almost 14,000 jobs in the professional services, attracting students to stay in the city after graduation, pushing Manchester’s graduate retention rate up to 58 per cent. It’s little wonder that 60 per cent more 25 to 29-year-olds live in the city of Manchester than the UK average. The number of 20 to 30-year-olds coming to the city has also soared, with 123,600 living in Manchester compared to 78,301 a decade ago.
But it’s not just the city of Manchester that’s seeing career opportunities grow. Conservative Trafford is forecast to grow at a rate of 15 per cent and create over 3,800 new jobs in the professional services sector by 2020. Oxford Economics predict that the job creation rate in Manchester is set to outpace top international cities including Berlin and Paris.
On net inward investment, it’s a similar positive picture. According to Ernst & Young’s 2016 UK attractiveness Survey, Manchester continues to lead the way in the region and the North West is the fastest growing region in the UK for international investment. The North West benefited from 98 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in 2015 – the largest number in a decade – representing an increase of 118 per cent on 2014 when the region attracted just 45.
These positive steps forward have been in major part because of devolution to Greater Manchester, commitment from Government to the right infrastructure programmes as soon as possible (including projects such as the proposed east-west high rail link known as High Speed 3) and a long-term, pro-business approach from local authorities in the city region including Conservative Trafford. With a new Prime Minister committed to devolution, the Northern Powerhouse and the mayoral elections in 2017, we also have the opportunity of a revival in the Party’s fortunes in the north similar to that in Scotland.
Whilst the current political focus is clearly on Brexit and the immediate political and economic uncertainty and volatility, the new Conservative Government must not lose sight of our driving manifesto commitments in 2010 and 2015 – delivering long-term, stable economic growth and the rebalancing of our economy across the north.
Conservatives in Trafford are as focused on it as when we first agreed devolution arrangements with Government in Greater Manchester in 2014. The next Conservative Prime Minister must remain committed to that journey which is delivering jobs and prosperity for the residents that we serve.