GEORGE OSBORNE has been warned that the Northern Powerhouse will be undermined if his head of the National Infrastructure Commission increases his political responsibilities and public duties by becoming London’s deputy mayor.
Andrew Adonis, who was handed the NIC role by George Osborne in October 2015 to counter longstanding suggestions that infrastructure investment is biased in favour of the capital, has reportedly been offered a key role by Boris Johnson’s successor Sadiq Khan, the newly-elected Mayor of London.
Mr Khan worked alongside Lord Adonis in Gordon Brown’s government and wants his former colleague to deliver his transport manifesto for London as well as fast-tracking plans for a second Crossrail line to assist commuters.
However senior figures are now lobbying Lord Adonis, who was Transport Secretary in the Brown government before becoming an independent cross-bench peer, not to accept the new role.
One senior official told The Yorkshire Post that such a move would be “stupid” and totally undermine the Chancellor’s pledges on the Northern Powerhouse and the advancement of schemes like HS2. “He can’t do both,” said the source.
Another senior policy expert close to the talks expressed alarm that Lord Adonis believed it was feasible to do both jobs when policies like Crossrail would clearly conflict, for example, with plans to invest in the North’s railways.
The National Infrastructure Commission declined to answer this newspaper’s requests for a comment from Lord Adonis.
A spokeswoman for the Chancellor refused to comment on the potential fallout, saying: “It is all hypothetical because it depends whether he accepts the job. We won’t say anything until that point.”
She said Mr Osborne and Lord Adonis continue to talk on a regular basis.
A spokesman for Lord Adonis said no comment would be made on the “speculation” about the mayoral role.
He added; “The National Infrastructure Commission has a made a series of recommendations to better connect the great cities of the North of England. The Commission’s proposals to put HS3 at the heart of a High Speed North with better road and rail links from East to West have been accepted in full by government and we expect those plans to move forward.”
Meanwhile a report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) lays out a number of key recommendations to help Leeds and other cities maximise on the economic and urban growth potential HS2 will bring.
John Worthington MBE, ITC Commissioner and chair of its high-speed rail panel, one of the key contributors to the study, used a successful example from the Netherlands to explain how cities can work together with “each doing something different but collaborating to make one ‘place’”.
“It is clear from 30 years of experience across Europe that high-speed rail can be a catalyst for economic growth, but seldom the driver,” he said.
“To capture the full value of this investment requires a shared vision, collaboration between different interests and a place where people wish to come and stay.
“The ITC has drawn insights from existing experience to inform and inspire the cities served by HS2 to capture the opportunity and achieve each city’s distinctive aspirations while improving livelihoods,”
He stressed HS2 was a 20 or 30 year project and “there will be lots of up and downs until then, so be responsive to change”.
And he urged decision-makers to strive to “make stations that arrive somewhere rather than going back somewhere”.Northern