Previous decades of regional policy have failed to close the North-South gap in economic productivity and prosperity. We’ve decided to do something about that, and are moving beyond old political rivalries. So a Labour Mayor of Liverpool and a Conservative Secretary of State might not be likely allies – but we both believe in the same thing: a Northern Powerhouse.
The real split now isn’t between left and right but between centralisers and localists, between those who believe you can run a modern post-industrial economy from Whitehall and those who recognise there is an urgent need to devolve power. We believe that the centralisers have had their day. The North-South gap is a testament to their failure and the need for a new way.
There is now a growing consensus around a new model of decentralised decision-making that all parties should support. At a local level, this is exactly what is happening. The progress we’ve made so far in transferring budgetary control and political power is a genuine joint effort; ministers and city leaders from different parties have worked together to make it happen.
The Chancellor’s vision of a “Northern Powerhouse” – a network of growth stretching across the north of England – is an idea whose time has come. It has a combined population of 15 million. By investing in the right connections between cities, we can make the most of the Powerhouse’s potential.
This isn’t a threat to London. The Northern Powerhouse will complement the Greater London Powerhouse, helping rebalance the country, strengthen our economic resilience, and ease pressures on land supply, housing and infrastructure in the South East.
A balanced economy brings the country together in One Nation, with wealth and opportunity spread more widely than they have been for decades. Our cities will become places where social problems are solved, not created.
All this ambition needs good leadership, and that’s why mayors should take over powers currently held by ministers. In the past, the fragmentation of local government has frustrated attempts to take a strategic view of local economic needs. By default, big picture decisions were made by distant bureaucracies without the benefit of local knowledge. Dynamic local leadership we can overcome the old divisions, allowing transport, regeneration, planning and other crucial economic functions to be co-ordinated across and between cities. It’s also vital that each city – and the Powerhouse as a whole – has the best possible representation on the national and international stage.
As Britain recovers from the deepest recession since the war – and we look across a landscape of uncertainty in the Eurozone and massive structural change beyond it – we must draw upon the full strength of every part of this country – from North to South.