One of Britain’s most successful technology entrepreneurs has given his backing to the idea of a Northern Powerhouse, declaring that “London is full” and young people would be better served living and working in towns and cities in the North.
Internet pioneer Peter Wilkinson described the scheme to combine the economies of places like Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield as “a phenomenal opportunity”.
But he warned that the plan needs the equivalent of London mayor Boris Johnson to give it a strong voice and win popular support.
Mr Wilkinson’s views carry some weight – his business ventures including Freeserve and Sports Internet Group have created thousands of jobs and generated a personal wealth estimated at £365m.
In an interview with the YEP the 60-year-old said politicians and businesses leaders should “park their egos” to make the vision a reality by coming up with a 10-point plan with business creation, transport and housing as the top priorities.
He said: “The Northern Powerhouse is about creating jobs and the only way you can create jobs is by making it a phenomenal environment for entrepreneurs of all ages.
“You should be starting a 100,000 businesses a year and if they average 10 people each you are creating a million jobs a year.”
“On top of that, which London doesn’t have, is an enormous potential manufacturing base. It has the most phenomenal potential if somebody can find a way of getting hold of it.”
The Yorkshireman added: “They can’t go on forever shovelling people into London. They need to put the ‘full’ signs up. It’s closed. But they keep doing it because there’s no alternative.
“It’s not as though you are going into France and trying to do something in Lyon, which sits there on its own with nowt around it.
“Manchester’s got Leeds. Leeds has got Manchester. Leeds has got Sheffield, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Castleford, Featherstone, Wakefield.”