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Tuesday 7 July 2015

Council Leader calls for pace to increase on Northern Powerhouse


The Leader of Cheshire East Council is calling for a major shake-up in the way the UK plans and delivers major infrastructure projects.

It follows the recent Government announcement on delays to major rail investment.

Cheshire East Council and Jacobs plc, the parent company of the Council’s highways contractor, have written to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to promote ‘open book’ procurement and collaboration.

They believe this will transform the way in which major infrastructure projects are delivered in the UK, potentially saving billions of pounds and bringing schemes to fruition much more quickly. Also, primarily through small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), providing the skills base ‘to deliver’.

This would provide a huge boost for the Northern Powerhouse, a programme of infrastructure improvements and devolution championed by Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tatton MP George Osborne as a way of rebalancing the UK economy away from a dependence on growth in London and the South East.

Councillor Michael Jones believes that better procurement and delivery could boost the Northern Powerhouse initiative, unlocking billions of pounds of private sector investment and transforming job prospects for the unemployed and people on low wages.

He said: “Cheshire East is the gateway to the Northern Powerhouse and we are fully committed to playing our part in its success.

“Whilst the decision to postpone the Trans-Pennine electrification is disappointing, we see the Northern Powerhouse as not just about improving rail connectivity, which is very important, but also improving strategic road networks, ports and airports.

“Billions of pounds worth of private and public investment is already starting to transform these opportunities. It is also about expanding the base of specialist manufacturing and science-based industries that already exist across the northern economy.

“The Northern Powerhouse is also the opportunity to better plan investment into HS2 and HS3 – and the Trans-Pennine decision possibly enhances HS3.”

The Council believes that an HS2 hub station at Crewe would accelerate the delivery of HS2 to the North and deliver a major boost to jobs and housing across Cheshire and its surrounding area.

HS2 will not only create better connectivity but also free up capacity on the West Coast Main Line for both passengers and growth in rail freight movements.

Cllr Jones added: “The current approach to delivery is constraining the ability of SMEs to grow and is stifling markets and competition.

“There are many signs that this has also led to both a fragmented supply chain, which makes managing project delivery more complex and left gaps in key areas, such as electrification and signalling. It is a shame that ‘tier one’ suppliers are able to undermine SMEs and the skills base they grow.

“It is time for greater transparency. We need to focus not only on planning infrastructure but also on planning delivery – on time and within budget. It should also be a platform for enhancing skills delivery.

“Furthermore, our ambitious plans for infrastructure allow us to create growth and enhance investment, exemplified by the Northern Powerhouse. It is potentially revolutionary for the northern economy.

“We must embrace the Government’s goals and inspire everyone to contribute to the rebalancing of our economy, which offers hope to the unemployed and those on low incomes.”

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