With the launch of the report: One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North, George Osborne has promised the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse‘. Encapsulated in the FT report is the fact that Liverpool feels neglected once again – and where that city is concerned, understandably they may well feel that today was indeed a day when things definitely went from bad to Warsi.
Beside the FT, the Guardian has two articles here and here (the first making its author’s heart sink, the second detailing a Eurotunnel-style line – the so-dubbed HS3), while The Journal cites Osborne promising that he is ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science, along with real new civic power (whatever ‘real civic power’ means). The Manchester City Council website provides a handy summary of the main points in the report together with supportive statements from local government leaders in Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool. That summary can only be described as one hell of a shopping list – and no doubt has a price tag to go with it; with the Guardian proffering a price tag of £15bn. What will be interesting to see, in the years ahead, is whether the EU decides to ‘chip-in’ or whether the entire cost of yet another home grown ‘grand project’ falls on the taxpayer. (Oh and the timing of this project and Osborne’s promise has nothing to do with his party’s re-election prospects, natch. Presumably Osborne will deliver his Autumn Statement in the hope that it is not the Autumn of his hold on power).
Lest we forget, it should be remembered that ‘transport’ (in all its forms) is an EU competence, so we can presume our ‘pretend government’ has received the green light from our real government in Brussels. While it is understandable that the ports of Teeside, the Humber and Liverpool are ‘talked up’, it is necessary to remind ourselves that the EU has already published its 9 ‘core networks’ (scroll to map at bottom) – and the Humber and Teeside are not part of them. It also has to be pointed out that large sums of money have already been spent on Felixstowe and Southampton, upgrading rail freight lines (both of which meet at Nuneaton) and where Felixstowe is concerned, road networks, in order to provide ‘gateways’ to the continent (page 35). Backtracking (apols for any pun, which unintended), while on page 35, Liverpool should note the listed ‘upgrading and electrification’ with Manchester.
Reverting to George Osborne’spromise of ‘real civic power’, I am agog to know exactly that which he envisages. Are the people of the North to be offered the same opportunity as those in Switzerland where rail schemes are decided by those that would have to pay for them? For example, this particular project received a thumbs down in a referendum.
This latest pronouncement is another ‘one to watch’, methinks.
Update: Hear the man himself talking about his Northern Powerhouse’ here.