The Northern Agenda

The Northern Agenda

Rakhee Rathod

Rakhee Rathod

Four enablers business leaders think will really drive the Northern agenda

The Northern Powerhouse is back in the news as the Chancellor has pledged a £400 million boost for the project.

A recent discussion convened by TalkTalk Business and chaired by The Times’ Business Editor Richard Fletcher, wasn’t short of suggestions as to where that investment should be focussed for success.

TalkTalk Executive Chairman Charles Dunstone was joined by Steve Murrells, the CEO of the Co-op Group, Professor Ken McPhail of Manchester Business School and Collette Roche, Managing Director of Manchester Airport to debate the question, “Can the Northern Powerhouse become a reality?”

The panel, all with a stake in the northwest, identified some key enablers needed to unlock the business potential of the region.


Steve Murrells cited the Co-op Group’s work with academy schools in the region where specialist staff with deep subject knowledge educate pupils. “We need to invest in a social infrastructure that gives us the opportunity to maximise the return when you connect all these communities”, he said. “You want people to feel valued and this starts in schooI. Having good role models to help open the eyes of kids and ignite their ambition is key.”


The panel agreed on the importance of upskilling adults who whose jobs are threatened by the march of technology, so that the Northern Powerhouse really is for everyone. But the region needed to work together to help the civic agenda spread “beyond our own backyard”, cautioned Murrells. Charles Dunstone reminded the audience that TalkTalk’s roots are in the Northwest and said he relished the opportunity to “fish for talent in a new pond”.


For Collette Roache, joining up cities would lead to a step change in productivity. “If we have 30-minute routes between Manchester Airport and Leeds or Liverpool that would without a doubt treble the catchment. It means an extra 10 million people can get to our airport. The 80 airlines I work with say that would open 20-30 long-haul routes. One route can bring in £250m of gross value added. Times that by 20-30: think about the inward investment, the talent, the travel and tourism. It’s a no-brainer. That’s why we need to work together to make sure it does happen.”


“We’re not a community that sits back and waits for permission,” said Roche. “While we need the government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse to become a reality, the drive and case for change needs to come from the North.”

To hit home the point, Charles Dunstone concluded: “We just need to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. If the Northern Powerhouse is going to be a success then it will be down to all of us to make it happen.”