My invitation to Tory PM hopefuls to Power Up The North – Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham is the mayor of Greater Manchester.
Andy Burnham is the mayor of Greater Manchester.
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THIS is the text of a letter that Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has sent to the 10 Tory leadership candidates in the wake of the Power Up The North campaign launched by The Yorkshire Post, and the region’s newspapers

Dear Candidate,

Now you have been nominated to be a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership and the next Prime Minister, I am writing to ask whether, if you are elected, you would be prepared to prioritise attending the second Convention of the North event to be held later this year.

The first Convention included business and political leaders from across the north of England and discussed how to put real power behind the Northern Powerhouse. This second event will follow a similar format and build on last year’s success as we look to further strengthen the voice of the North.

This isn’t about party politics. Westminster has consistently failed the North of England over decades and Governments of all colours have continued with an economic model which has built up London and the South East but has not invested in the North.

You will have seen the recent report from Lord Bob Kerslake’s Commission – UK2070 – which clearly demonstrates the “huge gulf” that exists between the UK’s best and worst performing towns and cities.

It highlights the investment decisions that have exacerbated that imbalance between the North and South of England to the extent that he likened the scale of these inequalities to the challenge faced by the reunification of East and West Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As the UK2070 report identifies, in the UK we have “relied on short term, reactive, underfunded project bidding processes, with a perverse ‘policy’ environment which reinforces past areas of growth, rather than unlocking new areas with future potential”.

But it is not just this report that lays bare the disparities that exist between north and south. The Financial Times, the National Infrastructure Commission and others have all said similar things – that our country needs to be economically rebalanced.

Radical change is needed if we are to break this culture of policy making.

This week 33 of our Northern newspapers and websites have joined together to launch a campaign – Power Up the North - calling on all parties and leaders to set out what they will do to narrow the North-South divide.

They have called on leaders to, amongst other things:

* Deliver a fundamental shift in decision-making out of London, giving devolved powers and self-determination to people in the north

* Make additional investment available for the north’s schools, colleges and universities to boost skills training

* Commit that the Government’s ‘shared prosperity fund’, intended to replace EU structural funding, be fully devolved in long-term tranches to enable strategic decisions of scale rather than areas having to bid in for smaller amounts, piecemeal.

As part of the Conservative leadership debate, it is important that people have a sense of the level of your personal commitment to the North and your willingness to consider these issues.

It is in that spirit that I am writing to find out whether, if you are elected as Leader and Prime Minister, you will attend the second Convention of the North event, which will be hosted by Sheffield City-Region, to be held in late August/early September.

I look forward to hearing from you.