Philip Hammond hints at new Northern Powerhouse funding boost
Chancellor insists improved transport links in north is top priority but criticised for lack of clarity
Philip Hammond said the Northern Powerhouse is a key part of the government's industrial strategy. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA
Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the Northern Powerhouse devolution and investment programme is "at the top of" the government's agenda, in a fresh hint it may receive a funding boost in the Autumn Budget.
Theresa May has been accused of failing to provide enough support for the growth projects outside of London, with umbrella group the Local Government Association yesterday complaining of "devolution deadlock", with now new devolution deals having been agreed in the last 18 months.
But when asked about money for improved transport links in the north, Hammond said: “I’m not going to give you ... the details of what’s going to be in the Autumn Budget that isn’t even yet written.
“But you can be assured that the Northern Powerhouse is right at the top of our agenda. It’s a key part of the [government’s] industrial strategy.”
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Hammond met the metro mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley on Monday to discuss the Northern Powerhouse, which was the brainchild of former chancellor George Osborne.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said he did “not get the answers [Manchester] was looking for”.
“He is certainly listening — however, I am afraid we did not get the answers we were looking for.
“We did not see the colour of his money ... we want to see clear commitments by the Autumn [Budget] to rail investment the north of England needs.”
In July, the Department for Transport dropped its plans for electrification of lines in Wales, the Midlands and the Lake District, and said that upgrades to the TransPennine route between Manchester, Leeds and York were still being “designed and developed”.
The government then announced plans to back Crossrail 2, a £30bn London-based project, prompting criticism from Labour and the think tank IPPR, which launched a petition calling for more transport spending in the north.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson yesterday told CSW that the government was “100% committed” to devolution, pointing to the mayoral election expected next year in the Sheffield City Region.
“We also announced in July that we will begin talks with the West Midlands mayor Andy Street to agree a further devolution package for the area," the spokesperson said.