This was a surreal time. He had been appointed just 27 days earlier; interest rates were cut on the morning of the speech and Covid was emerging as the worst health crisis for a generation.
As such, this newspaper looks forward to hearing from the Richmond MP about this Budget and plans to transform the Northern Powerhouse from ‘a slogan’ – his words – into ‘action’.
For, amid all the pre-Budget speculation, there is a near universal acceptance that this must be a Budget for the North. Yet, despite the Government’s hazy daily talk about ‘levelling up’, including by the Chancellor, few, if any, are wiser about what Ministers mean by this phrase or whether it is lazy politics to mask their inaction.
As such, Mr Sunak is hereby warned that The Yorkshire Post will be seeking clarity on these questions and others:
1. What are his objectives for the Northern Powerhouse, will he commit to backing Transport for the North’s new rail blueprint and how does he intend to measure the effectiveness of policy progress?
2. Who will have day-to-day responsibility and accountability for this agenda, especially if the Budget includes plans to create a Treasury North campus in Leeds or elsewhere?
3. How will he ensure that the Department for Education plays a proactive part in these reforms and ends the funding, and other imbalances, which so disadvantage the North’s schools and students?
These are critical times. Yet it is also opportune that a Yorkshire MP is Chancellor. For, while these matters, and many more, were urgent 12 months ago, they’re even more so now if the North is to become the global powerhouse once envisaged by Mr Sunak.
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