I was sceptical when George Osborne introduced the idea of a Northern Powerhouse using infrastructure investment to ‘unleash the power of the great cities of the North, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull’.
With no mention of Sunderland or even Newcastle, the original proposals seemed more to be a cynical vote winner for the large number of key marginal seats between Humberside and Merseyside.
More recently Newcastle appears to have been tagged on as an afterthought.
With Manchester’s infrastructure investment virtually done and dusted at about the same time as the Northern Powerhouse idea was first proposed and no plans for high-speed trains North or East of Leeds then it is becoming increasingly obvious that the North East is not a priority.
James Wharton, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, may be the MP for Stockton South but it is clear his focus is more on Westminster and Merseyside than the North East.
He did nothing to try to save steel jobs in the neighbouring constituency of Redcar hiding behind EU rules that the Italians and Dutch appear to have managed to get around without much difficulty in supporting their workers. Surely, steel making is an integral part of any manufacturing powerhouse.
Our local economy is totally reliant on EU exports and EU support. A Brexit will put tens of thousands of North East jobs at risk so when Mr Wharton joins the ranks of the ‘outers’, then I can only come to one conclusion. My initial scepticism was right, the Northern Powerhouse is about winning seats in Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The prospect of the Tories winning seats in the North East is slim so we can expect little more than the scraps from the table.
Coun Christine Marshall