The city region mayors for Greater Manchester and Liverpool shared a platform at a special event hosted by Downtown in Business at the offices of Deloitte in Manchester earlier this week.
Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram addressed a group of 100- strong business leaders on a range of issues, including transport, skills, homelessness, and Brexit.
Burnham expressed his frustration with Westminster politics, and the inability of central government departments to deliver on behalf of business.
“The Department of Education are failing our young people and they are failing you. We have a skills gap because we are not teaching our young people the right things or encouraging them to look at a broader spectrum of career choices.
“Despite the introduction of the Apprenticeship levy, there has been a reduction in people taking up apprenticeships. So, businesses are funding training and education that isn’t happening.
“We need additional skills powers to be devolved, so that we can deliver for local business, and local people.”
Steve Rotheram spoke about the need for infrastructure projects to include rail links between Manchester and Liverpool, not just Manchester and Leeds.
“The two Northwest cities need much better connectivity. We need a modern twenty-first century rail network not simply for our benefit, but the benefit of UK Plc. If we are to rebalance the economy, then a fairer distribution of resources for infrastructure funds is required.”
Both men agreed that a bigger voice for the north and the Northern Powerhouse was essential to push for greater devolution and more investment, and they confirmed that they were organising a Northern Summit in June to achieve that objective.
Burnham explained: “We want business leaders and political leaders from across the north to come together in Newcastle in the Summer to begin to build a movement and a message that tells the government that it is time for us to get what we need and what we deserve. There has never been a better opportunity than now to drive the devolution agenda, and the support of businesses is critical if we are to progress with this debate.”