David Parkin on a powerful opportunity for the North, getting in the zone and a resigning trend

IF there is one thing that has emerged since the vote to leave the European Union, it is that businesses are looking to focus on the positives amid the uncertainty.

Whether you voted to remain in the EU or leave it, the reality is that financial markets and the pound have been hit hard by the uncertainty created by the result.

And things haven’t been helped by David Cameron resigning as Prime Minister and the official opposition going into a tailspin.

We now have to wait another two months to find out who will replace Cameron.

That’s eight weeks before someone leading this country sets out their agenda on how to deliver the Brexit the majority voted for and to galvanise the economy and lay out a pathway to further future success.

It seems to me that this vacuum provides a big opportunity.

With little leadership coming nationally, now is the time for our regions to seize the initiative, not wait to find out what is going to happen in London.

While Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has driven the Northern Powerhouse initiative, it seems likely he will not be in the same role when the new Conservative leader takes office.

What is important is that the Northern Powerhouse doesn’t wither on the vine.

You might remember that under the last Labour government, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was responsible for an initiative called The Northern Way.

That got shunted into the sidings pretty sharpish, mainly because anyone who listened to Prescott’s speeches didn’t have a clue what he was on about.

But then neither did he.

And while the Northern Powerhouse is a better, clearer idea, it also has the same problem as its predecessor – it was conceived by politicians.

So if it is to work, to thrive, to deliver, it must now be embraced by business.

We shouldn’t wait to see what national and regional politicians tell us it can do.

Business people need to tell them what we want it to do.

So should it be focused purely on delivering better transport infrastructure, making sure HS3 does actually get off the drawing board and happen?

Or should it be about ensuring better connectivity between our major northern cities?

Can it be part of the solution to the plugging the skills gap in the north?

Can it bring all our cities and regions together and champion the north as an obvious choice for inward investors?

Should it combine the creative talents of all our cities and regions and promote them to the world?

In essence, should the Northern Powerhouse take one or two of these initiatives and drive them hard to delivery or should it do all of them or others?

I think it is up to business to decide that.

Recent events suggest we don’t trust our politicians to come up with the best ideas.

So it is down to those running and working in businesses to tell them what they want to see.

I think there is a real opportunity here.

And I don’t mean for Leeds, or Manchester, or Hull or South Yorkshire or Newcastle, but for all of them. Together.

Most businesses have common ground when it comes to wanting to see improvements.

Usually a stable economy is top of the list followed by better transport links then filling the skills gap.

So what can we all do together to deliver what we need for success across the North?

Let me know your priorities. I really do think there is an opportunity here that will benefit not just all of us, but future generations too.


I HAD the chance to see how regional public and private sector initiative is working well this week when I chaired a panel debate for the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership on the development of its Enterprise Zone.

The stats are impressive for the site which sits off junction 45 of the M1 just a couple of miles from the city centre.

With blue chip tenants like Amazon, Fed Ex, John Lewis and Perspex already in place, the 142 hectares of development land offer an attractive option for office, manufacturing warehouse and distribution uses.

The panel discussion was a great example of where central government, local authority and the private sector can come together successfully to deliver the Enterprise Zone which is now reality, but only five years ago was just a concept announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Budget.

Jacqui Ward, deputy director in the Cities and Local Growth Unit in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, sat alongside Leeds City Council’s chief officer for economy and regeneration Tom Bridges and they were joined by James Pitt, development director of Evans Property Group, a Yorkshire based success story.

The audience were made up of property agents – not a group known to get up early just for the lure of a bacon sandwich – and the venue was Leeds City College Printworks Campus, an impressive development which has brought together a cleverly converted former Victorian printing factory together with new buildings which house the college’s Food Academy.

Roger Marsh, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, gave an overview of the opportunities that the Enterprise Zone offers businesses.

Roger, a former head of accountants PwC in Leeds, has always been a man that likes a catchy phrase.

He used to say the expression “an inconvenient truth” so much that I actually thought he’d come up with it and given the idea to Al Gore for his film title.

But now Roger’s got a new one that is bang up to date: “It’s not about Brexit, it’s about fixit.”

I’m not bothered if it sounds a bit corny. We get so many people speaking in riddles these days that picking a few phrases to get messages across is no bad thing.

After the event Roger was heading to London to go into bat for the region in the corridors of power in Whitehall.

I told the audience that I hoped the mandarins knew what they were in for as Roger had had a couple of protein shakes and was ready for the fray.


I’M currently trying to work out out what I can resign from.

It is very much the latest trend to walk away from your job – it was started by David Cameron and followed by Boris Johnson pulling out of the race to be the next Prime Minister and then Nigel Farage stepping down as UKIP leader.

While Jeremy Corbyn is currently resisting what the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party want him to do, it seems only a matter of time before he has to resign as leader, or risk the party going into meltdown.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberal Democrats grow unhappy with their leader Tim Farron, who has been strangely silent at a time when there appears to be a big gap waiting to be filled in the political middle ground.

And then Chris Evans got in on the act, resigning from his role presenting the BBC motor show Top Gear.

And that was front page news too.

I have to say I wasn’t a fan of Top Gear, either with Evans and Friends actor Matt Le Blanc at the helm, or their equally smug predecessors, Clarkson, Hammond and May.

But then I’m not a car enthusiast.

I like the look of certain cars, I just have absolutely no interest what goes on under the bonnet and how fast they go.

Commentators said that Evans and his co-host failed to recreate the “banter” of the previous trio. But from my experience, their conversations appeared pitched at about the level of a group of teenage boys throwing Monster Munch at each other on the top deck of the school bus.

The clips I saw of Evans in action appeared to suggest he spent much of his time running through the studio audience waving his arms in the air and shouting.

To be honest, Chris Evans doesn’t need the job. He’s wealthy beyond belief having sold his radio station for millions and held down top paying radio and TV jobs for more than 20 years.

He can walk away to his place in the country with a car collection in the garage that most motor museums would be envious of.

Who replaces him is keeping the bookies busier than the Tory leadership race.

I’ve heard talk that the BBC are considering a wide range of potential candidates ranging from comedians to politicians.

How can they tell them apart?


SOMEONE asked me last week whether I’d written this blog on Thursday rather than first thing Friday morning.

I wondered why he’d asked.

“Well you used a lot of big words last week and I didn’t think you’d have been able to come up with those if you were suffering from a hangover which you normally have when you write it on a Friday morning.


It’s enough to make you feel discombobulated.

Have a great weekend.

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