The North of England has the potential to compete with the world’s great cities – and the North East will be at the heart of it, says George Osborne.
The Chancellor was speaking on a visit to Nissan’s Sunderland plant as the car giant confirmed a new version of its successful Juke crossover will be built on Wearside, securing tens of thousands of jobs at the factory and in its supply chain into the next decade.
• Watch a video below of George Osborne praising North East workers during his visit to Nissan UK, provided by BBC News.
Mr Osborne outlined his dream of creating a ‘Northern Powerhpouse’ by devolving greater power to the north of England in his first speech of the new Parliament – but progress since then has focussed on the North West and Yorkshire, with little or no mention of the North East and the plans apparently stalled over the Government’s determination to see a new elected mayor for the region.
Speaking after a tour of the Sunderland plant, he laid out his vision. The Government had brought forward projects such as the north’s hi-speed rail link and dualling of the A1 as part of an drive to improve links across the region, said Mr Osborne.
At the moment, more jobs are being created in the North East at a faster rate than anywhere else in the UK and wages are going up faster, so we’ve got today the double dose of good news – the new Juke model being made here and the opening of the Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe and I would say that shows that the North East can compete not just with the rest of Britain but the rest of the world.George Osborne
“I think you are beginning to see a shift in the investment and the North benefiting, linking up the great cities of the North, whether it’s Newcastle and Sunderland and Middlesbrough or, indeed, Leeds and Manchester all together.
“It’s about saying if you put all these cities together, you’ve got something that can compete with your New York, or your Tokyo or your London indeed.
“Put it all together and you’ve got something that’s bigger than the sum of its part and that is the basic idea behind the Northern Powerhouse, of making sure we change this pattern in our country where we put all of our bets on the City of London and we let the rest live off that.
“That is what I inherited as a chancellor – now you find the North East growing faster than the south, and long may that continue.”
The success of international companies such as Nissan and train manufacturer Hitachi in the region was evidence the North East could hold its own against the rest of the country, he said: “The North East is absolutely at the heart of the Northern Power house.
“At the moment, more jobs are being created in the North East at a faster rate than anywhere else in the UK and wages are going up faster, so we’ve got today the double dose of good news – the new Juke model being made here and the opening of the Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe and I would say that shows that the North East can compete not just with the rest of Britain but the rest of the world.
“Companies like Nissan and Hitachi , they can put their investment anywhere, so we’ve got to work together with the people here in the North East to keep that going, keep the good news coming, keep the jobs coming.”
He was confident progress could be made on devolution: “We asked for ideas from local areas, including here in the North East, by the end of this week for how we can move to a new model of running our cities where you have elected mayors and they take much more control of the decisions that affect people here, rather than those decisions being taken a couple of hundred miles away or more in London.
“I’m pretty optimistic we will be able to get a deal here across the political parties with the North East. I think it’s been really encouraging how we have been able to work together.
“I’ve seen some good early ideas from the North East so I’m quite optimistic. I don’t want to say it’s there yet but I think we can make a real step forward.
“I think the local leadership here are actually ahead of some other cities in the UK and that’s really exciting.
“Things are moving but that does not mean the deal is done yet and we’ve got some hard negotiations in the next few weeks to make sure we get a good deal for local people.”