First 'Convention of the North' launched as mayors team up to give regions louder voice

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his Liverpool city region counterpart, Steve Rotheram.

A first of its kind union has been launched by the metro mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool in a bid to ensure the north is not left with “second-class transport plans” and a “London-centric Brexit”.

The formation will lead to the first ever Convention of the North in June this year in Newcastle with the aim to bring northern leaders together so they can speak with one voice on important issues that are set to dominate the infrastructure and political arenas. The belief is that decision-makers in Westminster will have to sit up and listen to a united force which is keen to ensure the north is not left behind.

The Convention of the North will provide a focal point for the Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is being launched this week by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. With the government set to make key decisions on its plans for HS2 in the north, there are fears that cost-cutting on HS2 will limit options for Northern Powerhouse Rail. Furthermore, the convention will provide a platform to set out the shared position of northern leaders ahead of the autumn Budget.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “If we sit back and leave it to old Westminster way of doing things, there is a real risk that north will end up with second-class transport plans and a London-centric Brexit. Through devolution, we have a real chance of rebalancing this country from south to north. The Convention of the North could give the north a louder voice than it has ever had before and help to get us the right decisions on rail investment, Brexit and further devolution. The time has come for real change in the way our country works and in our politics."

Mayor for the Liverpool city region, Steve Rotheram said: “When civic leaders in the north built the world’s first ever passenger railway, they were forging an industrial revolution that changed the world. It is absolutely vital that we regain that level of autonomy and ambition if we are to unleash the potential of a new Northern Powerhouse. It’s about coming together to set and deliver our own priorities and the projects that will have the biggest and most sustainable impacts."

There are three key areas that the convention will look to address and have a voice on:

  • Rail investment: Northern leaders are calling on government to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), staring with a new city centre station in Liverpool, at the same time as HS2 and for the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station to allow an ambitious Northern Powerhouse Rail to be built.
  • Brexit: The convention will provide an opportunity for Northern leaders to repeat their call for a seat at the Brexit discussions. Currently, the mayor of London, devolved administrations and a committee with the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands can have their say but there is no permanent seat at the table for the English regions.
  • Devolution: The convention will allow all parts of the north to call for further devolution. Political, civic and business leaders will be able to set out plans for further and faster devolution, giving the north the chance to shape its own future.
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