Government backs northern powerhouse conference as it retreats from Sheffield

23 February 2016

The hypocrisy of the government's so-called northern powerhouse is laid bare as it backs a high profile conference at the same time as retreating from a major northern city.

Senior government officials will appear alongside business leaders at the UK Northern Powerhouse conference in Manchester on Thursday and Friday.

It comes a month after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced the closure of its Sheffield site that employs 250 people and provides support to businesses across the UK. Ministers have provided no business case for moving the jobs back to Whitehall.

UK Trade and Industry, a joint department of BIS, is listed as an exhibitor at the conference and its chief executive Catherine Raines is chairing a debate entitled, 'The north as an international powerhouse'. Lord O'Neill, commercial secretary to the Treasury, is also billed as a keynote speaker.

The event is supported by Sheffield City Council and the city's local enterprise partnership. The council's chief executive John Mothersole will chair a debate called, 'The business of devolution' on the first morning.

Described as "a unique opportunity to showcase the commercial potential of the north of England in the global market", only eight of the 78 listed speakers and contributors at the conference are women.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Backing a major conference on the opportunities available in north of England serves only to highlight the government's hypocrisy and bizarre logic of moving jobs back to central London."


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