Government 'stands ready to work together' in North's role in economic recovery

The North will be a “powerhouse that drives the UK’s recovery out of Covid-19”, the Government has said.

It comes as a report prepared by business consortium the Northern Powerhouse Partnership set out a plan to kickstart the reconstruction of the UK’s economy.

It aims to end the North/South divide but also massively improve the lot of the nation as a whole by empowering and investing in the North.

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And after a number of Government ministers - including the Prime Minister - in recent weeks have promised to stick to the ‘levelling-up agenda’ promised at the election, a Government spokesperson said: “As we focus on fighting Covid-19 we remain absolutely committed to helping every part of the country return to growth, jobs and prosperity in a way that is safe.

Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps. Photo: PA

“That means levelling up communities who have felt left behind and truly delivering for people across the north. As the Transport Secretary has made clear, the North must be a powerhouse that drives the UK’s recovery out of Covid-19.”

Setting out a look at how the Government plans to boost the economy following the pandemic earlier this week, Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said the nation’s economy had been held back by “bureaucratic bindweed” as he promised to learn the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic to tackle glaring regional inequalities.

He said: “By combining fast home internet access with vastly upgraded transport connections, we can help revive many of our small and medium-sized towns, which over the decades have been left behind.”

While Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick promised the Government remains committed to improving life across the country despite the cost of coronavirus.

When asked earlier in the month Mr Jenrick said devolution would continue and played a key role in rebuilding the economy.

Mr Jenrick said: “This Government was elected on a platform of levelling up and uniting the whole country and we have absolutely no intention of stalling those plans.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week indicated an investment in skills in the North could be a key feature of the Government’s plan.

Asked whether the country could expect to see more cuts to balance the books post-coronavirus, he said: “The agenda that we set out before and I talked about at Budget is still very relevant.”

The pledge seemed to mirror similar promises from the Prime Minister made previously. When questioned on austerity he said: “This is a Government that is going to pursue our agenda of uniting and levelling up across the whole of the UK”.

A Government spokesperson said transport improvements during the crisis had been a sign of this, they said: “Across the North, we’ve delivered £96m of rail improvements during April, fast-tracked upgrades to the region’s roads and railways, and are pushing ahead with HS2 to create jobs and improve connectivity.

They added: “We welcome the thinking done by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership on economic recovery and engagement with northern communities.

“It will be important for northern institutions, including Local Enterprise Partnerships, Mayors and leading business figures to come together and lead thinking on economic recovery plans for the North with government. We stand ready to work together.”

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