Sunderland leader calls for George Osborne to loosen the reins for ‘Northern powerhouse’

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: PA Wire
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: PA Wire
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THE Government needs to loosen the reins if George Osborne’s vision of a ‘Northern powerhouse’ is to come true, says Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson.

Councillor Watson was speaking after the Chancellor announced plans to invest in cities in the north of England by way of a new sovereign wealth fund, to be backed by revenue from the shale gas sector, so the “resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North”.

But Coun Watson said the regions had to be given a greater say in their own future if the dream was to become a reality.

“If the Government really believes in creating growth outside of London, it must empower all cities that are determined and willing to support their local communities and UK PLC.

“Given the Government has identified small and medium enterprises as key drivers of economic growth, it would seem sensible to apply the same mindset to cities such as ours.

“Sunderland – along with the rest of the country’s ‘key cities’ – is dynamic, agile and has great potential to deliver more growth. We would be able to do even better if the Government embraced devolution for all of us.”

Business leaders welcomed news the Government is to review the controversial business rates system, which has been criticised for creating anomalies in bills nationwide.

North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy Ross Smith said: “We asked the Chancellor to back our businesses with a pro-growth Autumn Statement to help us maintain positivity into the new year and he has done that, to a point.

“The announced business rates review must be a serious review with no options off the table. What we have at the moment is a broken system in need of radical and rapid reform.

“We have already had one limited review on business rates this year and our members will hope to see something more meaningful this time around – especially given the Chancellor confirmed further increases in the rates during today’s statement which will be bitterly disappointing for many businesses.

“It is good to hear the Chancellor once more reiterate his desire to create a Northern Powerhouse.

“Only by businesses, national and local government and LEPs working together can we create an environment that stimulates growth.”