It is nearly five years since Ministers first proposed to shut the Business Department’s offices in Sheffield because it was more efficient to base staff in London.
Now Mr Sunak, the Richmond MP, plans to use his first Budget to announce “a new economic campus in the North led by the Treasury where about a fifth of our headcount over time will move”.
The detail will be key – civil servants are invariably reluctant to move out of the capital and past plans to move Whitehall departments to the North have stalled.
But Mr Sunak did tell Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that he expects his plan to involve “other economically facing departments” – this presumably includes the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which previously ‘shut up shop’ in Sheffield at the behest of David Cameron, Prime Minister at the time, and the then Tory MP Anna Soubry who, as Business Minister, championed the move.
And his commitment is, in many respects, further vindication of the Power Up The North campaign that The Yorkshire Post and 40 other newspapers launched last summer. It has forced the Government – and other political parties – to treat the North as a political priority following decades of investment injustices as the Chancellor considers ripping up the Treasury’s so-called Green Book rules that have left this region at such a disadvantage for so long.
However Mr Sunak will appreciate, as a Yorkshire MP, that actions do speak louder than words here and that promises for additional funding for flood defences, rail services and so on will be taken at face value until residents, and commuters, here begin to see significant improvements.