The Journal Opinion: We need some clarity from the Chancellor

The Journal's Opinion column for Tuesday, November 4, in which we look at George Osborne's plans for a 'Northern Powerhouse'

George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer
George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer

So the Chancellor’s vision of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has begun with devolved responsibilities to Greater Manchester.
The choice of ‘pilot’ site is no real surprise given that region’s impressive track record in doing its in-fighting behind closed doors and showing a united front to the rest of the world.

A carrot has now been dangled in front of other northern cities – form a combined authority and elect a mayor and you too could be taking control of housing, transport and skills.

It is rather confusing that an elected mayor is part of the Greater Manchester deal, given that the city of Manchester has already overwhelmingly rejected the principle of having a northern Boris.

Why the insistence on mayors, a role deemed so unpalatable by the electorate, not just in Manchester?

But that is only a small part of the general confusion created by central government about regional (local?) governance.

The bonfire of quangos had the regional development agencies sitting in the Guy Fawkes position and it was made clear then that ‘local’ was the new ‘regional’.

The Local Enterprise Partnerships were duly born and it was again made clear that these new bodies, a union of public and private sectors, were to be the main conduit between Whitehall and the ... er, localities.

Now we seem to be back with regionalism - in everything but name only. Combined authorities appear to be the new preferred channels of communication. What does that mean for LEPs? Where does that leave the private sector voice?

Clarity is required - especially in a region such as ours where the five councils to the south are naturally resistant to joining the northern seven and government appears to be calling for a Greater Newcastle.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer