Northern Powerhouse plan failing to deliver for Hartlepool says town MP

The Government’s Northern Powerhouse has failed on promises to boost the region’s economy, says Hartlepool MP Mike Hill.

Monday, 17th June 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 17th June 2019, 7:05 am
Mike Hill MP

The initiative unveiled by the former Chancellor George Osborne in 2014 seeks to invest in skills, innovation, transport and culture through the devolvement of powers, money and decision-making to regional elected mayors.

But town MP Mr Hill accused the Government of paying ‘lip service’ to the project.

He says the North continues to lag behind London and the south and that the North East is likely to suffer the most from a no deal Brexit.

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Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which is spearheading the Northern Powerhouse says it is billions in improving transport and almost half of the North is now represented by five metro mayors.

Mr Hill said: “It is clear to me that the Northern Powerhouse project initiated by the former Chancellor, George Osborne, has failed to deliver on its promises and that the North continues to be disadvantaged economically compared to London and the South.

“If predictions are correct, and I have no reasons to argue otherwise, then the North East is likely to suffer the hardest from a no deal Brexit; an outcome I have been arguing against for a long time in the interest of businesses and jobs.”

Mr Hill cited the loss of the SSI steel works at Redcar, threat to British Steel jobs and uncertainty in the car manufacturing industry as how vulnerable the North’s economy is.

But Mr Hill said the North has a lot to offer especially in the renewable energy industry, new tech industries, and in the case of Hartlepool in low carbon nuclear, offshore construction, supply and decommissioning.

“Where we are lacking the necessary skills base we are investing in apprenticeships and training courses to fill that gap, but are constantly being battered by under investment and a focus away from the clear and obvious needs of the region,” he said.

Mr Hill backing a new Power Up The North campaign involving 30 newspapers, including the Mail’s sister publication the Yorkshire Post, which calls on politicians to narrow the North-South divide.

He said he will fight to protect industries like British Steel, improve transport infrastructure and for greater investment in education.

And Mr Hill said he intends to set up an All Party Parliamentary Group on Coastal Communities in order to focus minds in Government on ‘long forgotten’ seaside towns like Hartlepool.

“I know we have a Tory Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority to help concentrate on drawing down resources, but we need more than that,” he said.

“We need a real shift of emphasis by the Government to properly support and invest in the North, instead of paying it lip service.”

The Government defended its progress on the powerhouse initiative to date but accepted there is more work to do.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP said: “We’re investing over £13bn in improving transport – more than any Government in history – and, with almost half the Northern Powerhouse now represented by five strong metro Mayors, we’re fulfilling our promise for more decisions in the North to be made by people in the North.

“Delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail remains a top priority and we’ve committed over £97m towards this pioneering project to ensure the North has one of the fastest, best connected rail networks in Europe.

“We agree there’s more to do which is why the Prime Minister has strengthened the role of the Northern Powerhouse Minister.

“We are also developing a new Northern Powerhouse Strategy to build on the progress we have made, reaffirm our commitment to Northern communities and empower people to reach their full potential across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse.”

The Government added it has created Transport for the North, the first statutory regional transport body in the UK and given it £97 million to develop options for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

There are plans for further devolution deals, building on those in Sheffield and North of the Tyne.

And the Government said it has invested £70 million in a Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy to help build teacher and leadership capacity and raise standards in schools in the North.