Power up the Powerhouse with new Bradford city centre station

Five years ago this summer George Osborne captured the imagination of many in the business community when he launched the Northern Powerhouse. The idea of unleashing the unfulfilled potential of the North was irresistible. Here was a Chancellor with the economic vision and the political will to bring together northern cities, towns and rural communities to supercharge economic growth through the ramping up of transport networks and devolution of decision-making powers. He even got the Chinese president on board.

Sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016, Mr Osborne swapped politics for a job in the newsroom and now edits the London Evening Standard as well as earning a few bob on the side as an £650,000-a-year advisor to BlackRock, the US fund manager. To be fair, he did set up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership with Lord Jim O’Neill, his former Treasury minister, which bangs the drum for more investment in our part of the world.

Amid fears the Northern Powerhouse is running out of steam, 30 newspapers of the North including The Yorkshire Post have united in an effort to apply some pressure to those vying to succeed Mrs May in Number 10, urging them to spell out what they intend to do and how they will work with others to narrow the North-South divide. It is a fine campaign and puts down a marker for the new incumbent that the case for regeneration is urgent.

A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research North will certainly fuel concerns about rising inequalities in England. It found that between 2009-10 and 2017-18 the North had a £3.6bn cut in public spending, while the South East and the South West together saw a £4.7bn rise in real terms. London also saw a cut in spending, but by far less, at £256m.

IPPR North also found transport spending rose by more than twice as much per person in London, at £330 per person, as in the North, at £149 per person, in real terms. Most concerning of all, 200,000 more northern children are now living in a poor household since the launch of the Northern Powerhouse in 2014, meaning there is a total of 800,000 children living in poverty in the North.

Commenting on the report, Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “While positive steps have been taken to address the economic challenges facing the North, this analysis underlines the need to dramatically increase the pace and scale of investment if we are to truly rebalance the economy and raise living standards for all our communities.

“As a starting point, the Government must recommit to delivering HS2 in full and fund Northern Powerhouse Rail, with a line going through Bradford city centre, as fundamental building blocks of the 21st century transport system the North needs to unlock its full economic potential.”

Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, raised the issue in Parliament recently and afterwards said: “The difference in spending between London and the South East and the North of England cannot go on. We are still boarding decades old stopper trains to get from Bradford to Leeds, while London gets significantly more investment in transport.

“I want the North to have its fair share of funding across all Government departments, but transport would be a good start. Northern Powerhouse Rail needs to be a project that won’t be scrapped by the next prime minister, and it absolutely needs a city centre station in Bradford, the fifth biggest city in the country.”

Challenges aside, let’s not forget all the progress our district has made over the last five years: with the ongoing regeneration of the city centre, new business creation, jobs growth, high productivity, skills development, manufacturing exports and a cultural renaissance, Bradford is getting its mojo back. We’re doing our bit in business; now Government, whatever its political persuasion, needs to rebuild trust and confidence that it is for the North. That would be a very welcome boost for social solidarity.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Celebrating Bradford’s heroines who fight for our rights

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street is being named after her.

Local teacher Lillian was Secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union and clearly a very determined woman, so determined in fact that she attempted to enter the House of Commons on February 14 1907 to demand voting rights for women. Predictably, the Establishment was outraged. She was arrested, tried and sent to prison for two weeks.

Without the bravery of Lillian and others like her who fight for human rights, Britain would be a very backward place. It is great that our district is taking a stand and celebrating the contributions of these women through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses, starting with Lillian Armitage Close at a new development on the corner of Green Lane and Lumb Lane.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Better Health, Better Lives, told The Yorkshire Post: “I work in City Hall most days and while there are rightly many pictures of the old industrialists and aldermen who helped shape our district, these are by and large, male figures. This campaign offers the chance to redress this balance and promote more of our district’s pioneering lasses.

“I look forward to seeing more of the women from our past in my visits to City Hall, and indeed throughout the district and hope that Lillian Armitage will be the first of many women to be publicly honoured in in the district. By raising the profile of our Pioneering Lasses in Bradford we hope to inspire young women across the district to go on and make their own history.”

There are many exceptional role models to be found in the Bradford civic community. Take the following as a few shining examples: Bradford Chamber chief executive Sandy Needham, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, council chief executive Kersten England, Bradford Literature Festival director Syima Aslam, manufacturing MD and LEP board member Joanna Robinson, charity chief Adeeba Malik, University of Bradford vice chancellor elect Shirley Congdon and health care commissioner Helen Hirst. I could go on.

We have many outstanding female entrepreneurs, such as Gemma Andrews, the 31-year-old co-founder and managing director of Superfood Market, who transformed a popular food blog into a successful whole foods supply business with annual sales reportedly nearing £10m.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I really love my job and the business we have built over the best part of a decade. I’m really proud of all the work we do, but I’m especially proud of the hardworking and dedicated female team leaders, managers and department heads at Superfood Market.

“I hope that my leadership of the company serves as a positive example of modern times in business, and inspires other women to reach for positions at the highest level. I hope though my hard work and dedication I pave the way for fellow Yorkshire lasses like myself to pursue and achieve their dreams.”

Suzanne Watson, the managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR and the Vice President of Bradford Chamber, is another example of an outstanding female entrepreneur in our district. She said: “The political, cultural and business landscape is changing at an incredible rate and now more than ever do we need inspiring female leaders to step forward and share their experiences, their skills and their vision with the next generation of women to encourage more entrepreneurship, more courage and more self belief to achieve our potential and secure the careers we deserve and truly make the difference we are capable of.

“Recognising female achievement in all areas is long overdue and as Bradford moves to acknowledge and promote the important role of women in the district’s history with its Pioneering Bradford Lasses campaign, I am looking forward to a future where Bradford’s example of female leadership is the norm, rather than the exception.”

Suzanne becomes Chamber President later this year, the second woman to hold the post after the advertising guru Judith Donovan CBE, another outstanding female entrepreneur from Bradford. Over the years, our district has produced some truly great women who have risen from diverse backgrounds to become figures of historic significance. Recognising their often courageous contributions to business and civic life helps pave the way for others to follow.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Humanity scholar and boy band brother sum up genius of festival

One is an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar who believes that humanity is the foundation stone upon which religious practice should be built. The other is a 1980s boy band star turned Hollywood actor and viral video sensation. Both are proving to be among the hottest tickets for this year’s Bradford Literature Festival.

That Habib Ali al-Jifri, the UAE-based author of Humanity Before Religiosity and founder of the Tabah Foundation, and Luke Goss, one half of Bros and now LA-based actor, are leading online sales sums up the sheer brilliance of our very own world-class festival. This year’s showcase features 500 writers and 400 events over 10 days, running from June 28 to July 7 and taking place at venues small and large across the district. Have a look through the programme: there really is something for everyone, particularly young people.

Habib Ali al-Jifri will be in conversation with the Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines on Saturday July 6 at St George’s Hall. They will be discussing the turbulent times of the day and the key issues confronting not only people of faith but humankind as a whole, drawing on insights from their respective religions and personal experiences in a multi-faith event that, judging by the demand, is not to be missed.

Luke Goss, meanwhile, will be talking about his new book, Desert Conversation. It is billed as “a stream-of-consciousness reflection on solitude, love, faith, consumption and more that truly answers the question, what happens After the Screaming Stops”. That’s the title of the BBC documentary charting Luke’s reunion with twin brother Matt nearly 30 years after they were one of the biggest bands in the world. The film has gone viral, just like ticket sales for this event at the University of Bradford’s Great Hall on Saturday June 29.

For fans of economics, there is plenty to get stuck into. The event titled Living on Another Planet: The Super-Rich 1% caught my eye as it poses the question, is there a scenario in which the uber-wealthy can co-exist without disrupting the economic and social cohesion of the wider world? Grappling with this tricky issue will be Oliver Bullough, author of the best-selling Moneyland, Deborah Hargreaves, former FT journalist and founder of the High Pay Centre think tank, and Daryl Cunningham, the Yorkshire-based cartoonist and writer. This takes place somewhat appropriately at the Banqueting Suite in City Hall on Sunday July 7.

Business readers will know that capitalism is getting a bad press at the moment, not helped by the excesses that will no doubt be pilloried at the above event. The general sense of uncertainty isn’t helping. Paul Mason, the journalist and film-maker, will be offering a tonic with his new book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being, which promises “a vision of humans as more than puppets and consumers” and highlights the importance of language, innovation and cooperation. (Bradford is a living and breathing example of that, Paul.) The ex-Channel and BBC Newsnight economics editor will be at Waterstones on Monday July 1.

In an increasingly polarised political landscape, it’s easy to overlook the vital role that business plays in creating and maintaining prosperity. Capitalism might not be perfect and certainly needs improvement, particularly in spreading more evenly the opportunity to succeed, but it does pay for an awful lot of what we all take for granted.

In this spirit, I would like to thank all of the sponsors and funders without whom this festival wouldn’t be possible. Bradford Literature Festival represents a fantastic opportunity for companies from a CSR perspective, given its focus on accessibility, literacy and cultural engagement. With its national profile, it’s also a great marketing platform.

This is just a small selection of highlights from this year’s inspirational showcase. The founder and director Syima Aslam is doing a fine job as the author of one of Bradford’s biggest and best success stories of recent years. She said: “It’s important to me that as the festival grows in stature nationally and internationally that we stay rooted in Bradford.” We know the district has extraordinary challenges as well as extraordinary opportunities. In that respect, it’s a microcosm of the world in 2019. Where better to find the solutions?

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

How to inspire school children to dream of business success

A green Jaguar and a nice suit – that’s what sealed the deal for me. It was 30-odd years ago at my Bradford comprehensive and a former pupil was visiting as part of an employer engagement programme to talk about careers in accountancy. He told my class about aspiration, hard work and that doing well at school had set him up for a great career.

As a teenager growing up in Bradford, my aspirations at the time were pretty much limited to playing football. But this talk made an impression on me. The nice suit and the Jaguar XJS parked by the school gates caught my eye and my imagination. But more important was seeing someone like me getting on – if he could do it, why couldn’t I? A seed was planted that day which led in time to setting up my own company.

I told this story recently at an event designed to get employers in the Bradford region to support young people in the workplace. Nav Chohan, Principal at Shipley College, also spoke about how employers can support the district’s Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE). These centres enable 14 to 19-year-olds to link up with local businesses to earn qualifications, learn new skills and gain valuable employment experience.

Nav has 25 years’ experience in education and is chair of both the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) and Leeds City Region Skills Network. When he speaks, people listen. He noted how some young people from modest backgrounds don’t have access to the same opportunities as middle class kids. Meeting someone in a business, charity or public sector organisation through skills programmes might be the first time that they hear about different careers from someone who isn’t a parent or a teacher. What Nav said really struck a chord with me and took me back.

There are currently five ICEs in the region, offering young people work placements, mentoring visits to employers and advice on career development. Nav urged more businesses to get involved with the ICEs because he’s seen first-hand what they can do: Shipley College was first, with the Centre of Excellence in Business (Cofe4B) opening its doors in 2013. The Centre of Excellence in the Built Environment came in 2014. Next was the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (Creative and Digital Technologies), which launched in 2015. Two more Centres of Excellence – in Computing, Science and Environmental Technologies; and in Health and Social Care, have since followed.

The Bradford region is home to many fantastic businesses which need a supply of talented employees to grow. But we need to get much better at connecting businesses with the educational needs of young people.  ICEs are different because the curriculum has been developed in partnership by local businesses, schools and colleges to provide routes into work, training and education. They work well precisely because employers and educators work together with a shared aim.

As part of Bradford’s economic growth strategy, we want to add £4bn to the district’s economy, create 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 people by 2030. We are already making good headway. Everyone can contribute to this, but as the youngest city in the UK, it is Bradford’s young people – the entrepreneurs and employees of tomorrow – who will make the difference.

The aim is that ICE programmes will support 3,100 students on placements in 20 secondary schools in the region. There are plans for four new ICEs in the next two years: the creative, digital and the arts will launch in September and will be followed next year by centres in hospitality and tourism; public service and law; and transport and logistics. To make them successful we need the support of local employers.

There’s lots of ways employers can help our young people to get on – support an ICE; offer extended work experience to a young person; become a governor of a school or college; or go back to your old school and talk about your education and career. The point is that business needs to roll up its sleeves and get involved.

My taste in suits and cars has certainly evolved since that classroom visit 30-odd years ago. But the importance of each generation doing its bit to raise the aspirations of our young people never changes.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club