Leaders from across the North of England on Thursday called on the UK Government to commit to a “Northern Budget” to deliver a boost to the region’s economic fortunes.
The call, backed by Transport for the North, asks the new UK Government to deliver on commitments previously promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
Northern leaders are calling for:
• Commitment to a £7 billion Northern Infrastructure Pipeline – a list of “shovel-ready” road and rail projects to be delivered by the mid-2020s
• Commitment to build the full £39 billion Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network by 2040
• Commitment to £1 billion for Transport for the North over the next three years to deliver on its vision
The demand follows a pledge by the Prime Minister to “turbo-charge” infrastructure by delivering a new high-speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds, and his recent commitment where he said that Transport for the North were: “making a very, very good case here for £39 billion investment in east-west connections from Liverpool to Manchester, Bradford, Leeds.”
Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “The North is now at the top of the national political agenda, with promises to balance out the UK’s economy and unleash our potential by better connecting our towns and cities.
“We now need a Northern Budget to make both the shovel-ready projects and the ambitious longer-term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.
“Closing the productivity gap between North and South is essential if we’re to compete on a global stage – but the North’s constrained by creaking infrastructure.
“These are the minimum requirements needed to overturn the underinvestment, under different Governments, stretching back decades. It’ll ensure the North becomes greater than the sum of its parts and will get the UK firing on all cylinders.
“Whilst the Government is planning for a one-year spending round for its departments against a Brexit backdrop, there is no reason why we can’t see real commitment and recognition of the ambitious pipeline of infrastructure investments the North so badly needs.”
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Government may look different, but our ‘asks’ are not.
“We’re consistent and focussed in our plan for what infrastructure the north needs to unlock its full potential, not just for its own benefit, but for the whole UK.
“A ‘Northern Budget’ would be the ultimate demonstration of commitment.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail is vital to the North’s future economic success, supporting 850,000 new jobs by 2050 and an extra £100bn into the economy.
“The north is clear that we only support NPR proposals that deliver the whole network, from Liverpool to Hull, along with HS2.”
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said: “For the North to truly reach its potential, and for the Powerhouse project to succeed, we can’t be treated as the poor cousins to the South.
“We need more investment in Teesside as well as the whole of the North. I’ve been very vocal in calling for further Government Funding to not just our region, but the wider North for projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“I’m never going to stop pushing for more local control and I’ve been heavily involved in this latest call as the Vice Chair of Transport for the North.
“Connecting our northern towns and cities via a high-quality transport network is vital to boost economic growth and job creation.
“It will help people access jobs and opportunities throughout the region and the wider North and it will help to unlock the plans I have to grow the Tees Valley.
“Projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail are essential for commuters, businesses and residents if we are to unlock the true potential of the North.”
Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said: “We need to urgently address decades of under-investment in infrastructure in the North which is why we are calling for a Northern Budget to help us rebalance the UK economy and deliver for our communities.
“A modern, reliable, quick transport system must be the cornerstone of the economic transformation we and the country need to see in the North.”
Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, said: “Today we are on the brink of a once in a lifetime opportunity to build on the strengths northern cities and towns provide.
“There is the energy to make this happen. Now we need the commitment.
“York, with it’s incredible rail, road and ultra-fibre connectivity is ideally placed to strengthen Yorkshire’s economy.
“HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and other initiatives to link the east-west of the country by rail are preparing York and the North East to benefit from an improved rail infrastructure.
“By creating nearly 100,000 m2 of high grade commercial space at York Central, we will attract over 6,200 high value jobs into the region.
“In addition, we have the highest skilled workforce in the North and, as the first gigabit city, some of the fastest download times of any city in the UK outside of London.
“With these ingredients already in place, we are poised to make a significant contribution to the northern powerhouse.
“By choosing to invest in northern transport and infrastructure, you will unlock York’s considerable strengths, create a more balanced, sustainable economy and enrich the lives of residents across York, Yorkshire and the North East.”
Councillor Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Cheshire West and Chester Council have ambitious growth plans for housing and attracting businesses to our borough, these rely on a reliable and affordable transport network that is in desperate need of investment.
“Without a significant transport budget for the North of England from the Government our area is being held back from its full potential.
“We are part of the Northern Powerhouse competing in a global market that can only keep growing with a transport system that can meet the increasing demands.”
Cllr Carl Marshall, TfN representative for the North East Combined Authority, said: “Transport investment projects are essential to increase the capacity for economic growth across the region.
“In order to support growth it is vital that projects to boost our economy include the right infrastructure and investment.
“We must ensure that the North of England receive essential improvements to transport infrastructure in the short, medium and long-term.
“If the government is truly serious about closing the north- south divide then we must be given the funding to support this.
“Without major infrastructure projects that are designed to specifically yield economic benefits for the region, the north will be held back in stimulating sustained economic growth and creating jobs.”