A Long Wait for Spring

It would be remiss of me not to comment on yesterday's Autumn Statement and churlish in extreme not to acknowledge that it contained some very good news, for Manchester in particular, but also for the North in general. We have been making the case for well over a decade that more publicly funded research and more national research institutes should, building on the research excellence of our universities, be based in the north. so the announcement of a new national research institute, the Sir Henry Royce Institute, specialising in applied materials is very welcome indeed. As the University of Manchester is currently rated number two in the world for its material science research, it makes sense to headquarter the institute here, but that it is a collaboration with other northern universities and even some from the south is an enormous enhancement of the proposal.

Similarly welcome is the Factory, Manchester. This project started life five or six years ago as the proposed Royal Opera House Manchester but in the intervening time has metamorphasised into a plan for an arts space of which there is not the like anywhere else in the country. Manchester is the second biggest Creative Industries Hub in Europe, and this is one of our fastest job-creating sectors. The Factory will underpin job-creating regeneration at the former Granada site, will provide a permanent home for the Manchester International Festival, and allow us to develop arts productions in virtually all art forms in a way that cannot be done elsewhere. Just like the world of scientific research, there also needs to be a national rebalancing of arts and culture, but not by simply moving stuff from London, or by replicating what is there. What we want in Manchester is something that is special to the city and that is what the Factory will give us. And it's not intended just to be a performance space but to be a place that produces new content and will be able to provide professional training in every aspect of production.

One North has only existed since around February this year but has already changed the transport investment landscape with wide-ranging and long-term proposals for radically improving inter-city connectivity across the north, building on the proposals for HS2. Funding announced for well-developed schemes in the One North portfolio is great recognition of our remarkable progress in such a short period of time, but even more important is the commitment to support the development of even more ambitious proposals for connecting the north en route to the virtual super-city of the north.

These are all proposals created and led in Manchester and the North. They are all based on strong, dynamic and creative partnerships, and they all point the way to a better future. But there is a down-side. The Autumn Statement also reaffirmed government spending plans for the next couple of years and that means for local authorities like Manchester no respite from the dreadful cuts we have had to deal with over the last four years and the next round currently underway. Local government collectively has been fantastically innovative and imaginative in dealing with the cuts but we're now getting to the point where we need not more new ideas but miracles if we are to manage over the next few years.

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