LABOUR’S pledge yesterday to break up the Treasury and devolve power over spending to the north will be applauded by many in our region frustrated at the centralisation of decision-making in the capital.
The Power Up The North initiative championed by this newspaper and others across the north of England is seeking just such a redistribution of powers, and whilst only the broadest outline of the plan was announced by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, at first sight it would appear to be a move in the right direction.
His suggestion of a £250bn national transformation fund to address infrastructure problems – crucially including the creaking transport network – is intended to start rebalancing the unacceptable inequalities between North and South.
Such a drive is overdue, since this unfairness is hampering the north’s progress and preventing it from realising its full economic potential, which it should be remembered is not only affecting our region’s prosperity, but that of the entire country.
Mr McDonnell says he now intends to discuss his ideas with elected mayors in the north. Those talks must include representatives from Yorkshire, even though our region’s aspirations for a single elected mayor have been frustrated by the Government.
As things stand, however, the obvious drawback to what Mr McDonnell proposes is that Labour is not in office to make this devolution of powers and funds possible, and no general election is due until 2022. Action to help the north is needed long before then.
Nevertheless, his intervention places the two men vying to become Prime Minister before the end of this month under pressure to match the commitment to give the north the deal it deserves. By raising the issue, Mr McDonnell has effectively issued a challenge to Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt to make a real difference, whoever wins office