Convention of the North: A more autonomous North is key to both levelling up and the UK’s Net Zero ambitions

It was great to be at another Convention of the North last week, this time in my home city of Leeds. 

Steer ED’s contribution this year focused on developing two of the convention’s policy themes, Trade & Investment and the Net Zero transition, to support the Convention in shaping a ‘Manifesto for the North’ ahead of the next general election. 

These two seemingly separate topics are in fact intrinsically linked and it is essential to understand the ways that they intersect so that we can drive greater growth, prosperity and equality for current and future generations in the UK regions. 

On the convention floor it became clear that one of these goals can’t be achieved without the other. We can’t get to Net Zero without a massive uplift in investment, and the UK can’t achieve its ambitions Net Zero or levelling up ambitions without a more prosperous North. 

It was great to spend time really getting into the issues of what is needed to address these challenges, and how, in a time of limited resources, we could work together as a set of Northern and national partners to make things happen.

The Convention six years on: Power to the North 

A consistent question from speaking to people around the convention was: how much progress has been made in the years since the Convention began in 2018? The answer, to my mind, is quite a lot. 

After May, 87% of the North’s population will be covered by Mayoral devolution deals, and the pace and depth of devolution continues to grow. The Convention saw the announcement of ‘Level 4 trailblazer deals’ for West and South Yorkshire and the Liverpool City Region, with a similar deal for the North East announced in the Chancellor’s Budget this week. 

While more power than ever before in the hands of Northern mayors, it takes a long time for this shift in power to translate into real change on the ground. However, as bus franchising in Greater Manchester and the innovative approach to joining up the apprenticeship opportunities in Liverpool City Region show, it is having a demonstrable impact. 

As the general election comes into view, it is more important than ever that all parts of the North continue to push for the levels of autonomy that work best for them and their communities, and that we collectively continue to demonstrate the impact that devolution can make. 

So whilst there is still much more to do, the progress is tangible and the message is clear: greater devolution of both powers and investment will mean a stronger and more sustainable economy – not just in the North, but for the UK as a whole. 


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