Ed Miliband will intensify the battle for votes in the North tomorrow when he announces plans to divert £30 billion of funding to create “powerhouse” English cities and counties.
In what his party says will be the biggest transfer of power away from Whitehall for a century, the Labour leader will unveil proposals to move growth funds from central government to local enterprise partnerships part-run by local businessmen.
The plans have been drawn up by Lord Adonis, the former transport secretary and Labour peer whose report Miliband will launch in Leeds tomorrow as part of a week-long campaign to mend fences with business leaders.
It comes a week after Chancellor George Osborne spoke of his desire to strengthen the economy of the North by improving links between its major cities, including a transpennine high-speed rail line, and devolving power.
Miliband revealed his plans yesterday in an article for a Sunday newspaper, claiming the scale of the challenge facing Britain meant “the next Government must also begin reversing a century of centralisation”.
His party is already committed to increasing devolution of powers over housing, transport and skills to English cities and regions but is now setting the amount of cash it would transfer from Whitehall to £30 billion over the course of five years.
But Labour were soon forced onto the defensive by internal criticism that bold reforms were being rejected by party leaders in favour of “cynical nuggets of policy” designed to appeal to the press and focus groups.
Jon Cruddas warned that the top of the party wields a “profound dead hand at the centre” that blocks plans, according to the Sunday Times.
A recording of the head of the party’s policy review made at a meeting of the left-wing Compass group captured him attacking recently announced Labour plans to cut Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18 to 21 year olds as “punitive”.
In response, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “I understand Jon Cruddas’ frustration about a newspaper headline. We’ve all been in a situation where a big report or a big speech is reduced down to just one policy.”
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “Jon Cruddas, with me and Ed and others, has been working for months, years, on big reforms. They are going to come out in the next few months, people will see the policy review he has led has been a big deal.
“One aspect of that is saying if we’re going to have growth and jobs, not just in London and the south east - four fifths of the new jobs have been in London since 2010 - we’ve got to have more devolution of power to our cities and our county regions.”
The announcement of the Adonis report on growth is being seen as the latest move in the battle to woo voters and businesses in vital swing seats in the North of England ahead of next year’s election.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post published on Saturday, Nick Clegg said the region will take another big step towards controlling more of its own affairs when the Government sets out how it will back the region’s ambitious economic plans in the coming weeks.
The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed the Government is hoping to announce next month where it will be investing its £2bn-a-year Local Growth Fund.
And he said that Yorkshire’s success in securing and organising the Tour de France Grand Depart has showcased its readiness to have a much greater say over its affairs.
On Monday, after Mr Osborne announced plans for a possible HS3 rail link between Liverpool and Hull, running the length of the M62 corridor, David Cameron set out a vision of a Yorkshire run by Boris Johnson-style elected mayors.