As a snap election is called and three big beasts leave the local political stage, Downtown boss Frank McKenna asks, what next for the Northern Powerhouse?
A surprise General Election called; George Osborne announcing that he is standing down as a Member of Parliament; and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson indicating his intention to run as Labour’s candidate for the Walton parliamentary seat, thus vacating his position as Liverpool mayor.
Add to this Sir Howard Bernstein’s departure as chief executive of Manchester City Council, and Theresa May’s seemingly lukewarm support for devolution, and it is easy to see why questions would be asked about the sustainability of the Northern Powerhouse project.
In Bernstein, Osborne, and Anderson three big beasts who were at the heart of the devolution agenda, set in train by the former Chancellor, have left the stage. It is doubtful that, even through his recently established think tank the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Osborne will have the same influence, or indeed credibility, on this issue without a genuine stake in the north.
The Prime Minister has been too busy with Brexit to pay too much attention to what was agreed by her predecessors, but she will also have noted the lack of progress that has been made in the Leeds city region, the Newcastle area and in places like Lancashire. Devolution settlements have not been easy to negotiate.
Will she now use a new mandate post June 8th to revisit the devolution and Northern Powerhouse proposals and start to dismantle what appeared to be an initiative with unstoppable momentum just twelve months ago?
With the election of metro mayors in Greater Manchester and Liverpool, I hope that they will fight for even more devolved power and responsibility, which in turn would surely encourage other regions to go for elected mayors and what goes with it. However, the latest earthquake that has hit our political landscape this week means that nothing is certain. If we want the powerhouse to progress, we will need to lobby the next government hard to make it happen.