Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Lancashire Telegraph column

There has been no mention of George Osborne’s much trumpted 'Northern Powerhouse’ which appears to be sinking as fast his career. Not a muffle from Maggie May. Rumour has it our new prime Minster has hinted the Government's obsession with Manchester will come to an end. Good. Lancashire has received now’t from the divvy up devolution. Short changed in Osborne’s dogs breakfast of localism. Some cities. Not all cities. Some cities more than other cities. Some cities faster than others. Definitely not shire counties unless, maybe .. no maybe not. Chaotic.

It was a slogan too. A political slogan to mug voters into believing Mr Osborne cared. To neutralise a reality. The south gets all the money. £billions on HS1 (channel tunnel), £billions on Thameslink, £billions on Crossrail, £billions on Westminster Tube Station and Kings Cross. Hyndburn and Burnley got £7million to improve our comparatively slow rail link to Manchester with hand me down rolling stock. There never was a northern plan.

It looks like Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ needs a headstone. Theresa May has said she wants a country "needed a plan to help not one or even two of our great regional cities but every single one of them.” Great. I get the message. Manchester. You’re on notice. New sheriff in town. Now the detail. Stop. Reality check. We’ll get now’t, again. Flashing warning sign. Tory rebadging and repackaging exercise in process.

The reality is this. If Mrs May wants an economic powerhouse everywhere for everyone she has to work out how the left behind shire towns are part that wider economic powerhouse. 

So let’s end city specific plans. City selfish mentality which has resulted in every city having an airport at the bottom its garden yet poor train regional services across with regional trains that aren’t connected to airports or ports easily and we have roads that go nowhere (M65) and roads that should go somewhere but not in a straight line or with nowhere near enough capacity. East –West road links are appalling. You can get to Norway faster than you can get to Newcastle

So it’s about time the shires sat in the big chair. It is also time we had regional pow-wow rather than little town hall chiefs from Leeds and Manchester whose only interest is to ensure their own flower bed is watered. Its time for a northern assembly that punches above its weight for the benefit of all.