Chancellor George Osborne made a number of funding pledges in last week’s Autumn Statement to drive his plan of a “Northern Powerhouse”, but Sir Michael Bibby is not convinced.
The managing director of Bibby Line Group, a Liverpool-based company that operates in everything from shipping, financial services and retail through its Costcutter supermarkets acquisition, urged for “more than just words” to support business in the region.
“We need clarity from the government on the Northern Powerhouse. We need more than just words on what they’re doing,” he told the audience at the Confederation of British Industry’s Medium Sized Business Summit in London today.
“As a concept it needs to get some teeth. We need some planning and real investment to happen.”
Bibby Line Group is a £1.715bn turnover business, operating in more than 20 countries and employing 6,500 people, according to the family-owned company’s website.
“We need a unified voice to talk to London and get the funding we need,” he added. “There’s nobody to do it at the moment.”
The comments contrast to the chancellor’s claims last week that he is making the biggest effort in 50 years to close the north-south divide.
The so-called “devolution revolution” aims to give local councils more powers on areas such as business rates, but so far just six out of 38 city regions have struck devolution deals. George has promised funding to improve issues such as transport links between northern cities, but critics say it is simply not enough.
Sir Michael also urged for more clarity from the government on its stance on offshore wind farms in the North Sea, on the day that climate change talks kick off in Paris, with all the world’s leaders in attendance.
“We’re willing to invest there but we need support from the government,” he said.