As this is my last blog of the year I thought I would take the opportunity of looking forward to 2013, and what I hope for over the next twelve months.
The budget statement from George Osborne on Wednesday doesn’t really give you a great amount of optimism as far as the economy is concerned. ‘Flat lining’ appears to be the new normal, and the chancellor is either hamstrung by his coalition partners from creating an agenda for growth driven by enterprise, or lacks the courage and imagination to back the UK’s entrepreneurs and business owners.
I hope that in 2013 the coalition collapses. We need, more than ever, clear and decisive leadership, and an agenda that the whole of the government believe in and can get behind. I have always been sceptical about government by coalition, and it is a particularly tricky art when you are dealing with a party as flaky as the Liberal Democrats. I would much prefer an outright Tory or Labour led parliament, where we would know where we were as far as policy was concerned.
My next hope is that, whoever is in charge in Westminster, there is recognition of the need to re-balance the economy across the regions. We may be suffering recession in most parts of the country, but London and the South East continues to enjoy prosperity.
I do not begrudge London its place as a leading world city. Indeed it could be argued that without London, we could be another Greece! Nonetheless, the austerity measures that have been imposed on the public sector in the North have been disproportionate to the South, and if we really are ‘all in this together’ then a review of the next round of cuts ought to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
Internationally we must all wish for the United States to agree a budget! The President is currently in a stand-off with his Congress over the country’s economic strategy, and if there isn’t agreement in January then the US economy falls off a cliff – taking the rest of us down with it.
The fact that we are so clearly operating in a global economy nowadays, with the prospects of the Euro and the Dollar every bit as important as to what is happening to the Pound, does make one question why world leaders are not working more closely together and finding a way of co-ordinating their approach to an elongated financial crisis that has seemingly got our world leaders totally baffled.
Closer to home, and on planet Downtown, I am expecting an exciting year in our newest city Leeds, where we will see a new arena and the new Trinity retail centre opening. Regeneration projects in Liverpool include a new conference centre, four hotels and hopefully the green light for the multi-million pound Liverpool Waters project. Manchester will continue to cement its position as the economic hub for the North, whilst in Lancashire the Local Enterprise Partnership has defied the odds and appears to have actually got the 999 local council’s talking to one another, and doing some decent work around business and economic growth.
With no elections in the cities next year, politically all eyes will be on the County Council elections, with the Conservative controlled Lancashire facing a strong challenge from Labour in May.
Promotion for Leeds United and one of the Lancashire Championship clubs to the Premier League would be good not only for supporters of the respective clubs, but for business too. The Premier League brings a profile and prestige to any town or city that money just can’t buy, and the spin-off economic benefit is enormous.
Qualification for the Champions League for Everton and an FA Cup win would be nice, and I’m happy for the Premier League to remain in the North West – so long as it doesn’t go to Anfield, of which there is more chance of Nick Clegg delivering a Liberal Democrat pledge.
Finally, I wish success and a recession proof year for all those companies who are members of Downtown. Your loyalty and support is very much appreciated and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.