Everyone has heard of the Northern Powerhouse. Ever since George Osborne unveiled his grand plan to re-position the economic centre of the UK out of the capital, there has been much discussion concerning whether other areas of the UK might benefit from a little decentralisation, with regions seeking to further spread the focus of power and use their resources and capabilities to get a bigger slice of the pie. Could the Northern Powerhouse concept be a starting gun for a devolution revolution across the UK?
The South West
Let’s talk about the South West. Historically, Devon and Cornwall have always had an element of separation about them – particularly Cornwall, many of the residents of which ardently refer to themselves as ‘Cornish’ not English and seek nationalism.
It’s also home to an often surprisingly sizeable variety of engineering industries. The vast majority of the largest aviation companies in the world have sizeable bases in the region (including Rolls Royce, Airbus and Augusta Westland) making up 25% of the UK’s aerospace industry.
Then we have the marine industry and Devonport docks in Plymouth. The largest naval refit dockyard in Europe, it’s the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy. The wide variety of other industries located in the area provides excellent opportunities for cross-skilling into marine without having to relocate. As Morson’s Paul White said in a recent Spotlight on Plymouth feature, our recruitment teams see a lot of contractors moving from surprising industries, such as petrochemical, into marine work because of the transferable skills. Check out the latest opportunities here
The Big One
Then, of course, there is Hinkley Point C. Given the green light last year, this £18billion project will be the first nuclear new-build in many years and will provide the whole region with a substantial economic boost. It will also be a huge task to recruit the workforce for this project throughout its lifespan, but when you look at the regions own cross-skilling opportunities that task starts to look a little less daunting.
When you consider what the South West has to offer, it’s easy to see how it could lay a claim to being its own self-contained powerhouse. These aren’t empty words based on regional identity or nationalism. It stands on its own as a gem of industry – one of several across the UK.
The Northern Powerhouse scheme heralded the start of an era of investment in the region, with work on road and rail infrastructure all part of the master plan. With a project like Hinkley Point C now on the horizon, there is a loud argument to suggest that a similar infrastructure boost might be just as warranted.
Perhaps in the future, we’re going to see more regional devolution, with a capital city that many see as being increasingly impenetrable, expensive and unattractive becoming less and less relevant as regions play to their strengths and become hubs all of their own. This could have economic – and social – benefits that are as yet unconsidered.