The debate about Manchester as England’s second city, the impact of central government’s austerity measures, and the provision of a public fund with a capital reach of £500m were some of the topics up for discussion at GVA’s Invest in Manchester event on Friday (click above to see our short video).
I joined around 75 guests from the London investment scene at One Moorgate Place in near to the Bank of England, as the agency enlisted big hitters such as Manchester council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein, to make the case for putting money into Manchester.
The event was one of a series which GVA is hosting in the capital to sell the idea of investing in regional cities to funds based predominantly in the Square Mile.
Tim Newns, deputy chief executive of Greater Manchester’s inward investment body, MIDAS, joined Bernstein on the panel, along with GVA’s Manchester offices guru Simon Reynolds, while Mark Rawstron, head of GVA’s Manchester office, officiated.
Some of the juicier comments came during the question-and-answer session which followed the presentations. Asked about Sir Digby Jones’s asseration last week that Manchester could soon be classed as England’s second city, Bernstein said it was an issue for London and Birmingham to discuss, while Newns argued that international investors couldn’t care less about that debate.
In response to a question about the coalition government’s austerity measures, Bernstein admitted that he did not expect the “steepness or scale” of cuts, and implored the DCLG to “not hold local authorities back” from driving growth, where councils are in a position to do so.
Newns was also asked if government relocations, such as those once proposed under the ‘Whitehall of the North’ scheme, are now off the agenda for good. Newns responded that larger moves are off for now, but that in six to 12 months’ time it is likely that more peripheral government departments will consider relocations.
There were other points of interest:
- Bernstein argued that despite the “market finance failure” there is no shortage of value in Manchester’s schemes. In creating its own investment model based on European funding, he added, a fund with a capital reach of £500m is being created.
- Reynolds crunched the numbers, and revelaed that more than 700,000 sq ft of known demand exists, naming: Pannone, KPMG, Friends Life, RSA, PwC, Bank of New York, LBG and Santander.
- Headline rents, he added, will be £30 per sq ft for any upcoming pre-lets, with £32-33 per sq ft-plus possible in the coming few years.