Discover more from The Mill
Without investment from the government, the North looks overseas
Plus: A lovely ivy-clad house in Prestwich, and the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear Millers — sterling took a pounding (sorry) on the markets this morning, briefly falling to its lowest ever price against the dollar before recovering this afternoon. That reflects how traders are reacting to new chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-budget” on Friday, which offered huge tax cuts to higher earners and significantly amped up borrowing.
We don’t get involved in the high-octane world of foreign currency trading here at The Mill, but we’ve been keeping an eye on a few storylines about how this government’s new economic strategy might impact Greater Manchester and the North — more on which below. As always, if you enjoy this edition, please do forward the email to a few friends and tell them about The Mill — they can join the list themselves here.
We also have a gorgeous Home of the Week in Prestwich which will probably be sold in the time between you reading this intro and clicking on the link, and a lovely recommended read about Glossop-born Hilary Mantel, who died last week at the age of 70. Since her death, many people have been sharing a beautiful passage from Mantel’s 2003 article Giving up the Ghost, about looking back on our lives as we get older.
You come to this place, mid-life. You don’t know how you got here, but suddenly you’re staring fifty in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led; all houses are haunted. The wraiths and phantoms creep under your carpets and between the warp and weft of fabric, they lurk in wardrobes and lie flat under drawer-liners. You think of the children you might have had but didn’t. When the midwife says, ‘It’s a boy,’ where does the girl go?
In that article, Mantel wrote about her childhood in Hadfield, in the High Peak, and how the village received new blocks of flats built for newcomers from Manchester:
There are council houses at the upper end of the settlement, built for people from Manchester who had been displaced by the war. ‘She comes from the council houses, you know,’ is the phrase used; which means, roughly, lock up your spoons. I guess the council houses have superior sanitation — indoor lavatories, hot water, baths perhaps — and the Hadfield people are always anxious to sneer at anyone who they think might be going soft.
To Mantel, Hadfield was (according to a 2012 profile in the New Yorker) “not a pretty English village but a bleak, dank, cold Northern village on the edge of the moors, its people ‘distrustful and life-refusing,’ she wrote in her memoir, working in the cotton mills from late childhood, living in cramped houses without bathrooms or hot water, barely educated in harsh schools.” Oh and the house was haunted. “It wasn’t only she who felt it — she overheard adults talking about the ghosts as well. She realised that they were as frightened as she was, and were helpless to protect her.”
RIP Hilary Mantel.
This week’s weather
Our local weatherman Martin Miles says we’re in for an autumnal week: “Temperatures will be chilly if not cold for the time of year.”
Tuesday 🌦 A day of sunny spells and heavy showers. Windy. Max 12°c
Wednesday 🌤 A calmer day with sunshine and isolated showers. Max 13°c
Thursday ⛅️ Turning cloudy after a cold and sunny start. Gentle breeze. Max 15°c
Friday 🌧 Windy with heavy rain. Milder. Max 16°c
Weekend 🌧 Remaining unsettled with windy and showery weather.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am. Martin will be on Wythenshawe FM this evening from 5-7pm, so tune in!
The big story: The government has forgotten about the Northern Powerhouse — but Asian investors are still buying in
Top line: After Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-budget” on Friday, which is causing shockwaves in the markets today, experts are trying to work out how this new government’s economic plan is going to impact the North. There are a few interesting storylines we’ve been watching over the weekend that might help us to understand that — about the levelling up policy agenda, “investment zones” and the little-spotted concept of the Northern Powerhouse.
What about levelling up? One of the key takeaways from the mini-budget was its departure from Boris Johnson’s fiscal plans, which involved higher taxation to fund public services and “level up” forgotten areas outside the South East. As Henry Mance puts it in the FT:
Pretty much anything Boris Johnson’s government had done, he [Kwarteng] would be undoing
There’s a big focus on the City of London — uncapping banker’s bonuses and cutting taxes to most benefit the wealthy. This shouldn’t come as a major surprise to those who have been listening to Truss these past few months.
She was reluctant to discuss levelling up in her leadership race, and didn’t mention it in her acceptance speech.
In fact she focused on unleashing the power of London — creating a leaner, deregulated business hub that can thrive post-Brexit. One may even call it, with a shudder, “Singapore-on-Thames”.
However the mini-budget — delivered in a white paper called “The Growth Plan” — did include plans to speed up the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail, vaguely listing “Manchester improvements” in the annexe. We’ll now have to wait and see how comprehensively Truss is willing to back the ambitious NPR proposals for new lines linking the northern cities.
More clean-cut is the plan for “investment zones”. These would be areas with lighter regulation, and lower taxes, similar to previous plans called “freeports”.
We’ve learned that Greater Manchester Combined Authority is one of 38 authorities interested in establishing an investment zone. They would likely be in the North East corridor, which covers Bury, Rochdale and Oldham, said to be the region's largest employment opportunity (we covered Atom Valley recently).
The plans have plenty of critics, including Manchester-based urban geographer Jon Silver, who tweeted this weekend: “They call them ‘investment zones’ but they are better understood as ‘extraction zones’. Surely Greater Manchester political leaders wouldn’t be so foolish? There is no benefit in playing along with extreme free market ideology and hoping to get something in return.”
While the government might still be struggling to see the value in targeted investment in the North, foreign investors are having no such problems. A report in today’s FT finds that foreign investment has grown in the North while shrinking in the rest of the country.
This is mostly coming from Asia. Asian investment in the North has risen by 7% in the past five years, while it has fallen by 57% across the rest of the UK.
Lord Jim O’Neill, an ex-treasury minister, said: “I often felt that the Northern Powerhouse concept was better understood by investors in Asia than it was among politicians and financiers in London.”
Want to talk to us about regional economic development over a tea in the office? Drop email@example.com a line.
Home of the week
This ivy-covered two-bedroom cottage in Prestwich has bags of character, and feels like it’s been plucked from a fairytale. It’s on the market for £250,000.
Your Mill briefing
The Labour Party conference in Liverpool is laying bare the rifts between the left and right of the party. Starmer’s allies are dominating the conference’s agenda and talking points and all topics put forward for debate by the left-wing Momentum group were rejected. Some MPs on the left see salvation in Andy Burnham, preferring him as a leadership candidate in the next election. “He’s made an active effort to engage the left,” says one Momentum figure quoted by the Guardian. “He's in favour of electoral reform, nationalisation [and] universal basic income.” Similar fights are going on locally — read our members-only piece on the infighting that has taken over Stockport Labour.
Also at the conference, Gary Neville is burnishing his political credentials by appearing at various events. There has been growing speculation that Neville might run to be mayor of Greater Manchester in future, or perhaps succeed Rosie Cooper as the Labour MP in West Lancashire, but this morning Neville cooled that talk ever so slightly, saying. "I feel politically motivated but I can do as much for the Labour Party being here today as I can do being an MP," he said.
Greater Manchester Police say they are increasing patrols around mosques and Islamic centres after being called to a disturbance at the Islamic centre on Sidney Street last night. A man was found with a small cut on his face and external walls had been damaged. There was also graffiti referencing events in Iran, where there have been protests against the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being detained for not wearing a hijab in public.
Travel news: Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens tram stops are expected to be closed all day today after a tram derailed. No one was injured, and engineers are working to get the tram back on track. Full details are here.
Police are searching for an armed robber who stole £28,500 from a security guard transferring the cash from an ASDA in Manchester. He is thought to have fled the scene on a bicycle, heading down Princess Parkway, away from the city centre.
What we have in store
After a lovely weekend read (by Mollie) in which we met some of the new students who have just started the courses in Manchester, tomorrow we switch focus and ask what the upcoming Older People's Day is all about, and what Greater Manchester is doing to become a leading “age-friendly” city region. Are local leaders making attractive innovative policies — and is there a risk of patronising older residents? That’s in members’ inboxes tomorrow lunchtime, so join us as a member to receive that story.
Later this week, we have a follow-up to our recent investigation into how the council is handling homelessness in Manchester. We’ve got some new developments to report, including news of more dysfunction within the council’s sprawling homelessness directorate. Again, that will be a members-only story, as was our recent exclusive about the companies that are making lots of money by renting out regular family homes to the city. Is there now a perverse incentive to turn much-needed houses into temporary accommodation “rather than keeping a family in a home”?
If you’re on the fence, please do join us as member now to read those stories and support our work in the months ahead. Everything we’ve done so far has been funded by our members and we’re trying to get a little bump in subscription in the next few weeks so we can go into the winter in strong financial shape. Just click the button below.
Our favourite reads
We thought this was a lovely piece written by Nicholas Pearson, who was Hilary's Mantel’s publisher and editor. Pearson writes warmly of Mantel, and shares how she was wise, mischievous and a “truly great letter writer.” “Hilary was able to crouch the reader somewhere at the back of Cromwell’s skull, it seemed to me, where we could see history completely afresh and witness characters whose lives were unspooling in front of them. We knew the consequences of their actions but they, like all of us in our daily lives, were fumbling in the dark.”
The Manchester Ten — Red Pepper
In this article, local activist Roxy Legane looks at what an alternative approach to harm could look like, following the conviction of ten black boys after they were prosecuted under ‘joint enterprise’. “Was M40 really a music group? Or was it in fact, one of the most dangerous ‘gangs’ in north Manchester?” You can read our own piece about the case, which we published in July, asking: “Does the Manchester Evening News have questions to answer about its coverage of a controversial trial?”
‘The pen can kill innocent people, but it can also kill the devil’ — The Financial Times
The FT sits down for lunch with Jihyun Park — whose book The Hard Road Out was published earlier this year — in a Rowntree Cafe in Bury. Last year Park stood for election as a Conservative councillor and was believed to be the first person of North Korean descent to stand for election in the UK. “When I came here it was the first time I had seen that. Most people in the world are good — but especially in my town Bury and in England, because they are teaching me about happiness and about freedom.”
Our to do list
🎣 Ahoy there! Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical opens at the Lowry, promising ‘a feel-good voyage about friendship, community and music’. Book here.
📷 There’s an international photography exhibition at the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery in Stalybridge. Local/Loka’ includes the work of artists from Greater Manchester and Sweden. Info here.
🎥 Filmed Up is a showcase of short films made by North West-based creatives. Showing at HOME, there promises a mix of documentary, animation, drama, comedy and artist films. Starts 6.20pm. Book here.
🎨 Lancashire Wildlife Trust is hosting two free nature-themed craft sessions for children under 5. All materials will be supplied, while parents sit back and enjoy a cup of tea. The first session is at 9.30am, the second at 10:15am. Book here.
🧘 There’s a free outdoor yoga class in Angel Meadow Park. Bring yourself and a yoga mat — but it might be chilly this time of year. Starts 8.00am. Info here.
🎭 Or how about a relaxed drawing and chatting session at Manchester Art Gallery? You’ll get to draw items from the gallery’s Trading Station display It’s free to attend. Starts noon. Info here.
🌮 Don’t forget: Manchester Food & Drink Festival is back for its 25th year. Head to Cathedral Gardens for stalls from local favourites like Sale’s What’s Your Beef and I Knead Pizza in Stockport. Info here.
🎶 The Hallé welcomes guest vocalists to stage ABBA Symphonica at the Bridgewater Hall on Saturday night. Expect all the old favourites, as well as arrangements from the group’s new album. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
Letters to the editor
The park itself offers lots of seating and lush grass to sit out on in summer (‘Manchester has a new park — but what should you expect from it?’), and I think it WILL be used, though maybe not by the people who currently use Spring Gardens. I would go after work and get a beer and relax looking out over the flower beds and the river. Lindy
The kids are alright. I loved reading Mollie’s interrogation of freshers behaving (not very) badly (‘I just googled Best City In England and it came up with Manchester.’) Loved it because we’ve all woken to a bright yellow morning in late September and I’m transported back across half a century to my first days at (Hull) university, and (lucky me) life has little better to offer than those days of social discovery and untainted optimism. My God, Manchester is lucky in its annual transfusion of students. Stay lucky you all. Phil