New investments mark Manchester as the city to watch.
As plans for a near-£120 million investment into the north-west arts scene come to light, Manchester is going through what a city councillor has called ‘a level of national and international interest in Manchester unprecedented since the Industrial Revolution’. The upcoming development of the Factory creative space on the former Granada TV studios site is expected to create 2,500 jobs – and despite the government’s postponement of investment in northern railway infrastructure, this is exactly the sort of economic boost the city needs in order to bid to become a part of the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse.
Chancellor George Osbourne said as much in his latest Budget Statement, with a report on his pledges of more power to the north centring almost exclusively on the Greater Manchester region – much to the dismay of other northern leaders. As the government faces criticism from city councillors determined to see “the substance behind their rhetoric” – in other words, to literally put its money where its mouth is – frustration continues to mount that the Northern Powerhouse is no more than a pipe dream at the moment.
There’s particular concern over the fact that, according to Conservative MP James Wharton, “The exact extent of the North in the context of the Northern Powerhouse is not prescribed by the Government.” So while the likes of Manchester and Liverpool make pushes for devolution, it may not be such an easy decision for other places where council funding is tighter. If Manchester does get more of its own way in government policy, would it affect what’s already a huge gap in salaries and costs to catch up with London?
The latest Cost of Living comparison from Numbeo still puts many consumer goods and services in London at remarkable mark-ups from Manchester. Monthly utility bills are 12% higher, an internet connection costs nearly 25% more, and the rent is a massive 60% cheaper in Manchester. On top of the ever-widening gap between the cost of living in London and Manchester – with its housing crisis plus a net influx of Londoners – another study has highlighted just why so many people who leave London are settling in Manchester.
The Cost of Commuting in the UK pits city-centre living against the costs involved in commuting to seven major cities. It found that while workers in both cities are better off looking for properties in commuter areas rather than living in the city itself, the difference in costs is staggering. Renting in the middle of London is more than four times more expensive than finding a place just outside its northern counterpart, while even commuting into London is two and a half times costlier than finding a cosy city centre apartment in the heart of Cottonopolis.
While honorary and genuine Mancunians can save almost £100 a month by commuting, in London that saving is nearer £800. In preparation for that day when the Powerhouse rises, Manchester is already taking steps to raise the quality of life for its new tenants, with many new housing schemes launching alongside the business ventures currently in development in the city centre. As reported in April, the former MMU campus in Didsbury looks set to become a housing development – and with the building of as many as 93 new homes plus a primary school, the local area will prosper even further and appeal to the former London crowd amid the village’s quiet yet affluent surroundings. And the Digital Village project on Ordsall Hall could create a further 200 jobs in addition to the touted 2,000 factory workers. The delays to much-needed work on our railways may have been a huge blow to the north’s proposed economic plans, but in terms of attracting talent and staying affordable, as long as Manchester can prove itself a worthy rival to London, it could yet adopt the ‘Powerhouse’ mantle in good time.