George Osborne said the North is “stronger together” and claimed his Northern Powerhouse project was already bearing fruits as he led a trade delegation of northern council leaders to China.
Speaking from Chengdu, where leaders are pitching for £24bn of investment in a range of major development projects in the north, including in Sheffield’s new Retail Quarter and Leeds’s South Bank, Mr Osborne said the trip was about making sure the north - with Yorkshire at its heart - was at the forefront of economic development.
He said: “This is the first time that the leaders of the northern cities have travelled together like this. It’s amazing how we are working together, different cities, leaders from different political parties, with one goal, which is to build up the north of England and to build up the Northern Powerhouse and make a reality of that.
“My whole argument has been that great as the individual cities like Leeds and Sheffield are, they are actually stronger if they link up, not just with each other in Yorkshire but across the north to Newcastle and Liverpool and Manchester.
“We do that through the transport links, we do it through having strong, new mayors in these cities, we do it by collectively going abroad to a vast country like China and being stronger because the whole is bigger than the individual parts.”
Leeds Council leader Judith Blake, Sheffield’s leader Julie Dore, along with civic leaders from Manchester, Trafford, Cheshire East, Liverpool, and Newcastle make up the delegation.
He said the leaders had told him that uniting is “really working”, and there was a “real buzz” with early signs of success.
Mr Osborne said: “News is coming out that we might be getting a whole load of Chinese investment into the Thorpe Park development in Leeds, and I was talking yesterday to some of the Chinese investors in that project, but there’s a whole other set of investors we want to see in places like Kirkstall Forge, in the South Bank of Leeds and the new Retail Quarter in Sheffield and Park Hill, so lots of big opportunities there.
“And let’s not forget what this is all about. It’s about people’s jobs, and people’s living standards and making sure that the north of England is right at the forefront of economic development in the world, and of course, Yorkshire is absolutely at the heart of the north of England.”
Mr Osborne said the trip aimed to give “rocket boosters” to the Chinese investment that already exists in the north, particularly in cities like Liverpool and Manchester.
He said: “We’ve had a really fantastic response here from, not just the Chinese Government who are interested in their links with the north of England, but also a whole host of Chinese investors who are looking into putting money into regeneration in all these different great cities of the Powerhouse and to build on some of the links that already exist.”
Mr Osborne said new statistics show 265,000 jobs in Britain exist because of links with China.
He added: “I want there to be hundreds of thousands more and I want those jobs, many of them, to be in the north of England. So it’s a big push for the Northern Powerhouse, it shows that we’re making a reality of this Powerhouse and the earlier signs is that the money is going to flow into our great cities, create those jobs, create that investment and the Northern Powerhouse is really showcasing itself here in the middle of China.”