Words: John Chesworth, Harrison Drury Solicitors
The first meeting of Downtown’s Lancashire Property Club took place at Cotton Court in Preston, with a stellar name in place making and regeneration taking centre stage. Sir Howard Bernstein, the legendary former CEO of Manchester City Council was the guest of honour and he told the captivating story of the city’s rise from a place of unexploited potential in the late eighties, to the world renowned city we know today.
When Sir Howard applied for the job as the City Council’s CEO, he told the members interviewing him that the role he wanted to fulfil was the CEO of Manchester, not just the Council. He fully understood that the Council alone could not make the strides forward the people of Manchester needed. When he got the job, Sir Howard put his words into action galvanising the private and public sector behind a vision of Manchester as an international city, with sport, culture, education and science at its heart.
The Manchester devolution deal was a trailblazing agreement for the regions of England, but its origin was not a top down handout from central government, but rather Manchester telling the government what it needed and providing an evidence base for it. This was done through the 2009 Manchester Independent Economic Review which demonstrated to central government a strategy for long-term sustainable economic growth and the positive outcomes it would have for the Manchester city region. The lesson here, its much easier to persuade politicians your plan is sound if you have an evidence base in support.
Turning to Lancashire, Sir Howard said it is difficult to see how we can have an effective pan-Lancashire social and economic strategy without an effective pan-Lancashire leadership structure. While there may be pockets of opposition to such an over-arching leadership structure in Lancashire, we should not let dissenting voices hold back the majority who want to galvanise the county into action. In Sir Howard’s experience if you wait for unanimity on a decision, things do not get done.
Sir Howard encourages those around him to think big, but most mere mortals need inspiration to do so. I am sure that those who attended the event left inspired, all we now need to do, is find Lancashire’s Sir Howard.