George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse agenda was based on the idea that Northern cities are “individually strong but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.”
Few would disagree with the basic intent and aspiration behind this declaration, or that the UK economy has become too dominated by London, but this paper argues that both the dominant diagnosis of the problem, and the main policies being advanced to solve it, are more debatable.
Are Northern cities as economically strong ‘individually’ as Osborne’s claim suggests? There is more to a city’s economic success than just size and density, and the argument that greater connectivity to London promised by High Speed 2 will benefit Northern cities is highly contestable. Moreover, devolution could even intensify economic and social disparities both among Northern cities themselves and in relation to the more advantageous position of London with regard to fiscal devolution.
The lagging performance of northern cities (and regions) and the challenge confronting their catch-up with London need to be understood in terms of the historical development of the national political economy, and how that development has favoured a certain disposition towards, and role, in the evolving process of globalisation.
This paper originally appeared in C. Berry and A, Giovannini (Eds): The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse Palgrave