EVEN THOUGH there is now an unity of purpose across the North as political, business and civic leaders work collaboratively to harness the true potential of this region, many are of the opinion that progress is being achieved in spite of Theresa May’s government.
This is certainly the view of George Osborne who has issued an uncompromsing message ahead of the Great Northern Conference that The Yorkshire Post is pleased to be staging today in conjunction with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and which the ex-Chancellor heads.
His frustration – even exasperation – is plain as he claims that the innovative ideas being developed by policy-makers here are being compromised by “a lack of vision” on the Government’s part, a void which stems from the decision of Mrs May’s unelected aides to jettison this agenda when she became PM in 2016.
Yet, while the so-called ‘Westminster village’ will interpret this intervention as another rebuke of a Prime Minister beleaguered once more over Brexit, it is, in fact, more profound.
The criticism stems from a reluctance of London-based Ministers to invest sufficiently in the North’s infrastructure – or provide schools and colleges with the resources that they need to raise levels of attainment.
And while it is for Mr Osborne to answer for his approach to public spending when he ran the Treasury, he did – in fairness – start championing the Northern Powerhouse five years ago and his galvanising approach is needed more than ever if the North-South divide is to be narrowed.
However, while Mrs May – and others – will say in their defence that they’re doing more than previous administrations, they could be making an even greater impact if they put the Northern Powerhouse at the centre of decision-making – a move which would signal to the private sector that Yorkshire and the rest of the North matters and is the place to do business.
A start would be for Mrs May to heed previous calls by this newspaper to elevate the post of Northern Powerhouse to the Cabinet – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still retain their own Secretary of State in spite of devolution – and for each major Whitehall department to have a dedicated team tasked with accelerating the North’s policy agenda.
And if not, why not? For, judging by Mr Osborne’s critique, the current focus of attention is not good enough.