So the government have announced a loan facility for colleges going through a post area review restructure.

The days when government issued grants seems to be coming to an end not just for FE but in other areas of public spending too.

Under investment in public goods has been a hallmark of Conservative administrations since the days of Margaret Thatcher. 

It shouldn't surprise us too much. But then again this administration under George Osborne's Chancellorship seemed to be bucking the trend a little when it came to re-booting the economy. The Northern Powerhouse was announced with great fanfare. Northern MP George was going to make sure the North received its fair share of investment. The great economic divide between North and South would be reduced by joining up the great Northern cities of Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. The new high speed train line (HS2) from Manchester/Leeds to London would be part of the scheme.

So imagine my surprise when I attended a seminar at which Dr Neil Lee from the LSE was speaking (about his new research into the Northern Powerhouse) to find that the whole idea could be little more than a branding exercise with very little fiscal oomph behind it. 

In essence his analysis made clear that the UK has a big city problem. Or should that be a London problem. London dominates the UK economy in a way that is almost unique.

In other countries their second city is usually around half the size of their biggest city. This sort of distribution has an anchoring effect and ensures that more growth is shared more evenly. In the UK this doesn't happen. London dominates all she surveys. So the idea of creating a Northern megalopolis is potentially (at least theoretically) sound.

In order to do so four ingredients were identified:

  1. Improving transport links
  2. Investment in science and innovation capacity
  3. Decentralisation and devolution; and finally
  4. Culture

However in all of these areas there has been a lot of activity but not really much output to date. Obviously it could be cautioned that it is early days. But as Dr Lee points out the strategy of joining up Northern cities isn't new and as such the current set of policies on which the Northern Powerhouse is constructed are also largely not that new and focused on differing principles and pragmatic practicalities (such as who it is easiest for Whitehall to work with in the North– answer Manchester).

This leaves the queasy possibility that the name is indeed a useful brand around which to group disparate policy initiatives. As William Hague said in 2015 (as quoted in the Economist), 'The clearest most coherent thing for the North of England is the Northern Powerhouse initiative offered by the Conservative party.'

As Dr Lee points out, at the moment there is no single body to distribute money for developing the Powerhouse. The Treasury controls the cash and its distribution. And that is where the evidence of real intent is truly lacking.

Dr Lee's analysis finds a paltry £7 billion of new money at best, and as he argues, some of this may already have been earmarked for spending before the Northern Powerhouse was invented. There is also little clarity around how much cash devolution will deliver.

So what does this mean for the rest of England now going through Local Area Reviews and being promised devolution with cash attached?

Is this whole process merely an example of policy making that is emperor's new clothes? Is the attachment to austerity first and devolution second stymying any serious attempt to spread the jam more evenly and create the conditions for stronger regional growth?

Certainly what is not at issue is that the London effect continues. Those areas benefiting from that continue to grow – look at Milton Keynes and other London orbital cities and see how they are flourishing. And productivity is a growing problem, with our skills' providers and employers resolutely refusing to talk to each other in anything other than monosyllables when we need a proper discourse.

For what Dr Lee also found in his research (research backed up by many other empirical studies) is that without investment in skills local economies just won't and can't grow. Skills acquisition makes local economies larger.

So in next week's Budget George go large on skills. It might just turn the Northern Powerhouse into the exemplar the rest of the country so desperately wants to follow.

Nick Isles is chief executive of Corporate Agenda advice consultancy

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 19 hours 45 minutes ago

RT @FENews: NGWLive: Network Rail: NGWLive: Network Rail https://t.co/zqS6YwqgxP
View Original Tweet

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 23 hours 54 minutes ago

City of London Corporation provides Square Mile schoolchildren with food vouchers during half term break:… https://t.co/QilxKc8yaD
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page