Boris Johnson's promised Northern Powerhouse economic growth body still doesn't exist ten months after Rotherham speech

The new organisation dedicated to firing up the economy of the Northern Powerhouse promised by the Prime Minister in a major speech in Yorkshire nearly a year ago has still yet to be created.

By Rob Parsons
Sunday, 2nd August 2020, 5:45 am

At last September’s Convention of the North in Rotherham, Boris Johnson said the Government would help set up the new organisation with the help of local leaders “to make sure our great Northern Powerhouse is firing on all its cylinders”.

He told the audience: “It will be a genuine partnership across the region, led by a northerner chosen in close consultation with you. I imagine there will be a process to work out who’s going to do but it will be done in close consultation with you.”

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But the promised organisation still does not exist, despite reports in May that former Treasury Minister Jim O’Neill was being lined up to lead it.

The Yorkshire Post understands that northern leaders have yet to hear details about what powers and resources the new body will have.

And Ministers are being urged to make sure any new body is "created by the North, for the North and with the North" rather than being imposed on the region.

The Government says it has been prioritising its response to the pandemic but that the growth body was an important part of helping the North's economic recovery.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech at the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre on September 13, 2019 in Rotherham, England. Pic: Getty Images

A spokesman said: “It is important that we get this right so we are taking the time to make sure its role and remit will deliver for the North."

More details are expected to emerge in the Government's promised White Paper on devolution, due to be published in September.

Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “We need the North to fire on all cylinders, to come together as a world leading region and drive forward as a connected, united voice.

"This is simply not possible when there is nothing in the tank and no driver behind the wheel.

“12 months ago, the Prime Minister promised a bold new partnership with the North, since this announcement there has been no progress and no substance delivered on this promise.

"The Northern Powerhouse has been downgraded, it has lost ministerial focus and our region is still expected to compete for scarce Treasury investment at a time when the country needs our potential more than ever.

“Any attempt to impose a new Board stuffed with placemen from Whitehall will be viewed very dimly indeed.

"The PM needs to up his game, give us the tools, resources and powers we need to do the job effectively and make sure any new body is created by the North, for the North and with the North."

A number of pan-northern bodies already exist, with the Government last week announcing the creation of a Northern Transport Acceleration Council to speed up the delivery of major projects.

Transport for the North, the strategic transport body given statutory status in 2018, gives advice to Ministers but has limited powers and is reliant on Department for Transport funding.

The NP11 brings together 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships focused on economic growth across the North and gets several hundred thousand pounds a year in government funding.

The business-led organisation focuses on driving economic prosperity based on trade and investment, clean growth, connectivity and innovation.