FUNDING FOR YOUR NORTHERN POWERHOUSE
You first set out the thinking behind the term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a speech in Manchester two years ago. You said:
“Today I am putting on the table and starting the conversation about serious devolution of powers and budgets for any city that wants to move to a new model of city government - and have an elected Mayor.
The Northern Powerhouse can’t be built over-night. It’s a long-term plan for a country serious about its long-term economic future. It means jobs and prosperity and security for people here over future decades.”
You deserve credit for being the first Chancellor to talk up the North of England. But, at the moment, there is a risk that it will be only talk and you will end up giving the North a clever slogan and not much else.
Far from fixing our roof while the sun was shining, you are about to hand over the keys to a Powerhouse with a £1 billion hole in it. You are cutting £836 million from Greater Manchester’s councils; there is a £115 million deficit in the region’s NHS hospitals; you are cutting Greater Manchester Police by £8.5 million this year and the area’s post-16 education too.
On top of that, you have failed to provide the investment for High Speed rail east-west in the North - finding only piecemeal investment while prioritising Cross Rail 2. I simply cannot see how anyone could possibly conclude that Crossrail 2 is the highest strategic transport priority for our country.
If you truly want a Northern Powerhouse, you must now put your money where your mouth is. If you leave this gaping hole in the finances of our councils, NHS and Police, then people here will conclude that you are doing nothing more than cutting and running.
You have one more budget before the new Mayor takes office to fix this hole in our roof and balance the books. I will be watching carefully what you do and I won't let you set us up to fail.
I have five key demands to put the Northern Powerhouse project back on track. These are:
•covering the NHS deficit in Greater Manchester and handing over a service next year to the newly-elected Mayor with a balanced budget;
•creating a transitional support fund for councils in the North in 17/18 similar to that given by the Chancellor to many councils in the south in 16/17;
•honouring a promise to Greater Manchester Police made at last year's Spending Review of no real-terms cuts to budgets across this Parliament;
•stopping further cuts to post-16 education funding throughout the rest of the Parliament; and
•prioritising investment in a modern, high-speed, east-west rail system across the North over and above Crossrail 2.
I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that your commitment to the North is real. But people here are not daft - they now want actions not clever slogans.
Centuries of our Westminster system have failed the North England. It has left us with an unequal country and an unfair distribution of wealth, power, infrastructure and life chances. Your devolution proposals could change that - but only if they are backed up by real resources.
You are now at the crossroads with your Northern Powerhouse project. You have to decide what you want it to be.
Your legacy as Chancellor can go in two ways: as the one who truly changed the fortunes of the North; or one who perpetrated the most elaborate con in British political history. I urge you to choose the former and work with me to make it a success.
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP