Across the country public sector jobs are being squeezed and private sector growth is being encouraged. At the budget earlier in the year George Osborne announced a raft of measures to stimulate the property and construction sectors. From Enterprise Zones to Non-Domestic Business Rate relief the Chancellor made a concerted attempt to negate the considerable squeeze on public spending by desperately trying to create the conditions for private sector growth.
Being headquartered in London we have seen the enormous investment which flows into the capital. It is extraordinary to see the skyline of this ancient city changing and hundreds of new cranes being levered into position. London is still booming and is the only part of the country still seeing house prices rising year on year.
The North of England, however, has suffered in recent years. It is quite likely that the future is as grim for certain towns of the North as it is exciting for London. The North is disproportionately reliant on the public sector. Yorkshire Forward, for example, is relied on to deliver development and regeneration across Yorkshire and the Humber. You only need to look at the stalled developments in Bradford and Leeds to see how the banking crisis combined with the revocation of Regional Development Agencies has affected northern projects. Will this continue and how can it be reversed?
One critical aspect of the North’s future economic growth must be the promotion of an integrated transport plan. London is the centre of the UK for financial services; that will never change. The challenge is, therefore, to ensure the proximity to the north by journey time is reduced as much as possible. The government is hoping that HS2 is the answer but this can only be the start.
Redwood has certainly noticed a kick-starting of the conveyor belt back towards recovery in the North. Our clients are benefiting from the added value of Redwood’s expanding political expertise from beyond the Watford Gap, with a number of them now actively pursuing developments in the large metropolitan areas of northern England.
Councils throughout the country are busy remodelling their Core Strategies in response to the Localism agenda. Hopefully this is where local authorities can get innovative. They now have the tools to be as ambitious as they want. The government recently announced to the LGA Conference in Birmingham that councils will be able to keep their business rates rather than have them swallowed up by Whitehall.
Redwood has seen that this is leading to many authorities, particularly in the North, realise that in order for them to make up the shortfall of their budget cuts by the Treasury they will have to take a far more positive line in endorsing new developments. Could this lead to a scenario where the North is gradually weaned off its dependency for public money and can start to really catch up with the South? Watch this space!