North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors plc
In an ongoing series, Jamie Hardesty is talking to North East business leaders in an attempt to understand the region’s feelings towards the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.
This investigation, surveying regional business opinion, hopes to add coherence to the concept. After speaking to Dr. Stan Higgins, CEO of cluster organisation NEPIC and Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Architecture, we now welcome Robert Forrester, Chief Executive Vertu Motors plc,to the discussion.
What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?
The chance to redress the underperformance of the North of England economically and the dominance of the South in development and wealth.
Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?
No, there are discussions but little action. That to be honest is to be expected given the early nature of the project. You have to start somewhere.
Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?
Not yet in my view. We need some fast wins in infrastructure and less political structure building. There are too many politicians in this country and not enough men and women of action. I think it is committed but could do more.
Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?
Yes and what we should see is HS2 being scrapped and the investment moved to a new high speed rail link from Newcastle to Liverpool via Sunderland, Teesside, Leeds and Manchester. This should be a national priority and not a second thought. This tells us where the commitment of the government is.
It is rubbish that it takes hours on a local train to get from Newcastle to Manchester with no wifi. The 704 Flying Scotsman is first stop to London. It equally takes over three hours to get to Birmingham. This is massively reducing productivity and business being done by business outside of the capital. We all meet in London for ease.
Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?
Does the North East need a mayor? If so, who should it be?
It needs a fast connection to the rest of the North more than a Mayor. I am not opposed to a Mayor at all but we need action not talk and political structures. The risk is we get the structures and no action. We may see the ball put into the long grass while the south gets Crossrail, a new runway at Heathrow and HS2.
Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in the North East?
The jury is well and truly out. At least the Chancellor is trying to get the job moving. Every northerner should support him and press for action. Doing nothing and perpetuating the current inequality cannot be a serious option.