Transport Minister to meet Northern business leaders after Downtown conference

More than 150 business and political leaders gathered at Liverpool-based Downtown’s Business Transport Summit in push for Government backing for infrastructure projects. Tony McDonough reports

Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna

 

Transport Minister Chris Grayling will meet with Northern business leaders following a  major conference organised by Liverpool business lobby group Downtown in Business.

Downtown’s Business Transport Summit, held in Leeds, was organised after doubts over the Government’s commitment to transport infrastructure in the North.

Those fears were heightened when it was announced the Government was backing London’s Crossrail2.

The event brought together more than 150 business and political leaders to hear contributions from a range of speakers, including Downtown boss Frank McKenna, Lord Jim O Neil from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, IPPR North’s Luke Raikes, and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.   

Mr McKenna said: “The summit was a huge success, and given that our intention in calling the event was to influence Government thinking, then the minister’s offer to meet with us is extremely welcome.

“As I said in my summit statement, we don’t want a party- political bun fight – we want actions and solutions to the challenges that the business community in the North faces.

The Government is backing London’s £31bn Crossrail 2 project

 

“If we are to increase productivity, recruit and retain talent, and genuinely contribute to the UK plc economy, we need to be given the tools to do so.

The statement agreed for further business-political leader meeting in the future to progress the discussion, in the hope of establishing a campaigning body.

However, Mr McKenna warned against a suggested ’Council for the North’.

“That may be something to consider down the line. However, what the business community was clear about yesterday is that we don’t want another talking shop. We want, and need, action,” he added.

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