The Guardian view on the northern powerhouse: back on | Editorial
As Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, convenes a northern council in Leeds, Theresa May heads to Teesside. It looks as if the battle for northern England has begun
Theresa May sped to Teesside on Wednesday afternoon to launch the South Tees Development Corporation, a 25-year regeneration project backed by Ben Houchen, the new Conservative mayor of Tees Valley. It cannot have been coincidence that hours earlier in Leeds there was a gathering of an embryonic northern council of regional politicians and business interests, angered by the government downgrade of the electrification of the Leeds-Manchester line announced last month. Called the northern transport summit, in fact its ambitions were much wider: to coordinate and amplify a regional identity. As Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s mayor, said earlier this week, unless the north finds its political voice, “we will be waiting for ever for a powerhouse”.
What had turbocharged the sense of grievance over the delay to the trans-Pennine electrification, and to other out-of-London rail improvements, was the confirmation that came only days later of government backing for Crossrail 2, the £31bn north-south London rail route. Transport for London had been in a standoff over who would pay, with the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, whose disastrous cost-cutting when he was justice secretary has now largely been reversed. The tension over the London-centric investment of scarce infrastructure spending was worsened by the publication of the thinktank IPPR North’s now annual estimate of relative funding between the south-east and the north, which showed that parity funding over the past 10 years would have meant £59bn more in investment for the north. The government angrily disputed the figures, as it does every year, claiming that the IPPR does not take into account infrastructure investment in one region that benefits a much wider area, like the improvements to the A14 linking the Midlands to the East Anglian port of Felixstowe. The IPPR points out that it assigns regional spending according to official Treasury figures.
Source: Guardian Transport