IT’S not yet been two years since George Osborne first uttered the now ubiquitous phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
It was heavily leaned on in his Budget today, with Osborne saying that over half of the population of the Northern Powerhouse will be able to elect a mayor accountable to them next year.
Moreover, he announced that devolution arrangements evolve and grow stronger with the transferal of new powers over the criminal justice system to Greater Manchester, as well as supporting the establishment of a Life Chances Investment Fund.
“This is the kind of progressive social policy that this Government is proud to pioneer,” said Osborne.
The full Budget report, published once the Chancellor sat down, gives further details. It says: “The radical devolution of justice responsibilities will enable Greater Manchester to offer seamless interventions for offenders as they transition between prisons and the community, and to join up public services to tackle the causes of crime and prevent reoffending.”
And with agreements to establish elected mayors in the counties and southern cities too, Osborne added: “North, South, East and West – the devolution revolution is taking hold”.
The Government yesterday announced its plans to commit funds to a raft of projects recommended by the Lord Adonis-led National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), including backing for the HS3 rail project between Leeds and Manchester, with £60m to develop detailed plans to reduce journey times towards 30 minutes, as well as plans for improving links between the North’s other major cities.
It will also explore options for a Trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester with £75m to develop plans, as well as looking at options to enhance the A66, A69 and the north-west quadrant of the M60.
There plans for significant improvements to roads too, with £161m for Highways England to accelerate upgrades to the M62 between junction 10-12 Warrington to Eccles and junction 20-25 Rochdale to Brighouse.
Other fillips for the north in the Budget were:
-Over £150m investment in flood defence schemes in Leeds, Cumbria, Calder Valley and York
-A £20m per year Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy to improve schools
-£15m for National Institute for Smart Data Innovation in Newcastle
-The extension of Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone, subject to agreement
-An additional £130m to repair roads and bridges in Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Northumberland, Greater Manchester, Durham and North Yorkshire
-£13m for Hull UK City of Culture 2017
Osborne said: “I said we would build the Northern Powerhouse. We’ve put in place the mayors. We’re building the roads. We’re laying the track. We’re making the Northern Powerhouse a reality and rebalancing our country.”