The Northern Powerhouse has been a term bandied about for almost two years now. Emerging from the devolution deal that the then Chancellor George Osborne struck with Manchester City Council, increased powers around issues such as skills and economic development aside, the big-ticket item was the promise of a massive cash injection into the norths creaking infrastructure.
In particular, a modernised East-West rail link-to compliment the controversial HS2- would enable the big cities and towns from the region to connect in a fashion fitting of the twenty-first century, rather than the antiquated services and facilities we suffer at present.
Last month, Transport Minister Chris Grayling announced the cancellation of said improvements, thus placing the whole notion of a Northern Powerhouse at some risk in the eyes of many observers.
To add insult to injury, the Minister also confirmed that the planned investment in to London and the South east’s rail network; and a cash injection in to the Midlands, would go ahead.
Unsurprisingly, the news has been met with cries of ‘foul’ from leading politicians, including the most high- profile of the new regional mayors, Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham.
However, a Conservative government, even one as weak as this one, would not lose too much sleep over a queue of Labour mayors and leaders criticising one of its spending decisions.
Nevertheless, there ought to be some consternation from Theresa May’s administration in terms of the business reaction to Grayling’s announcement.
IPPR North launched a petition calling on the government to reverse its decision. Over 60,000 people have signed it already.
Downtown in Business is organising a special transport summit in Leeds on 23rd August to rally support for a campaign to challenge this incredibly short-sighted decision. The response has been overwhelming, with business organisations from across the northern corridor, registering their interest and support for the event.
There is genuine anger from politicians, business leaders, and the wider community with this blatant bias for London against the north. How will Lancashire’s Conservative-led County Council react to this scandalous U-Turn? More interestingly, how will Rossendale MP and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry respond?
The campaign to reinstate investment that is crucial if we are to grow our regional economy to its maximum potential will grow over the coming months. Tory MPs in marginal northern seats need to be joining us in putting pressure on the Transport Minister to change his mind – before they lose their jobs, and northern businesses lose growth opportunities.
To sign the IPPR North petition CLICK HERE
To register for the Transport Summit CLICK HERE