Building a Northern Powerhouse remains a “key Government priority”, ministers have said.
Commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill and Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy have been tasked with leading work on the project across the Government.
The announcement comes after Andy Burnham, the Leigh MP who is campaigning to be Labour’s candidate for metro mayor of Greater Manchester, wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May saying the sacking of the architect of the Northern Powerhouse George Osborne and the lack of a public statement of support for the project is “making people suspicious that your Government is preparing to row back on the whole idea”.
But ahead of his first official tour of the North, Percy said devolving power to the North is “a long-term Government priority and central to our plans to rebalance the economy”.
“As a proud Northerner, I am determined to ensure that people in every part of the North – from large cities to small rural communities – enjoy greater control over their lives and stronger, more sustainable economic growth,” Percy said.
“That’s why this Government will continue to support major investments to unlock the potential of the North and ensure that every area benefits from a growing economy.”
He pointed to progress made so far, which includes devolution deals for Greater Manchester, Sheffield, the North East, the Tees Valley and Liverpool, £200m for Transport for the North and a £60m package for exploring work on an HS3 high-speed rail link.
Elsewhere, the number of foreign investment projects in the Northern Powerhouse has grown by 127 per cent in the last two years and since June 2014, unemployment has fallen faster in the North than in the South.
Lord O’Neill said: “We know that our model to pull the region together is working, and we want other great regions across the country to consider how this approach could benefit them.”