Tom Richmond: Government’s strategy for North has gone off the rails – and the Budget proves it

Chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget paid lip service to the North.
Chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget paid lip service to the North.
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IF you want proof about the extent to which the Government now pays ‘lip service’ to the North, you only have to read the Budget crib sheet for ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’ that was released by the Treasury immediately after Philip Hammond’s speech.

It smacked of panic after the Chancellor omitted to mention Yorkshire – and only made a passing reference to some extra money for the feasibility study into Northern Powerhouse Rail that is already under way – in a statement which did see an extra £950m made available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

it is two years since former North Yorkshire jockey Freddie Tylicki was left paralysed.

it is two years since former North Yorkshire jockey Freddie Tylicki was left paralysed.

What did this press release include? The possibility of South and West Yorkshire benefitting from extra money being pumped into a Transforming Cities Fund if – and that’s the key word – applications are successful.

{The Yorkshire Post says: A Budget to buy Ministers time as Chancellor ignores Northern Powerhouse|Read here}

What else? The possibility of some money from a ‘Future Mobility Zones’ fund – I have no idea what it entails – and “£13m across the country to improve access to flood information”. Note the phrase “across the country”.

And finally there was the hint of a “refreshed Northern Powerhouse Strategy” before Mr Hammond lauded previously announced measures such as support for struggling high street shops, the freezing of fuel duty and extra money for the NHS.

Tom Richmond: No cure for failing railway – or Chris Grayling – unless customer service is on time

Yet, while the Chancellor’s decision to bring forward tax cuts will be welcomed by many, they will – in all likelihood – be wiped out by planned rises in council tax bills and other rises in the cost of living such as the annual above-inflation hike in rail fares.

As for revamping the Northern Powerhouse, I’d be more hopeful if the Chancellor had actually acknowledged its existence, handed Transport for the North the powers that it needs to get the trains running on time, backed Yorkshire devolution which could boost the economy by £30bn a year according to experts and put the skills requirements
of young people at the heart of the speech.

Regardless of the outcome of Brexit, all of these are policies are critical if the North is to become a national and international economic success story and it speaks volumes that the Government can’t – or won’t – recognise the opportunities which do still exist here. It’s a political failure now as glaring as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s failing management of the railways.

AT least I have some good news for bemused reader Richard Morton who got in touch about the ticket machine at Dore & Totley station in Sheffield.

After various carry-ons at this unmanned station, rail operator Northern installed a machine which works (on occasion).

The problem? It faces directly into the morning sun and the screen is “completely unreadable” if there’s any glare. “It also overheated and promptly went out of order,” he reported.

After his complaint was forwarded to Northern, they have been in touch to say that a canopy will now be fitted “as soon as possible”.

Let’s hope it’s not as late as some of their trains. As Mr Morton noted in his original email to this correspondent: “Keep up the good work as regards our ‘favourite’ Minister of Transport, Failing Grayling.”

I will.

INTERNATIONAL Trade Minister Graham Stuart clearly doesn’t have much faith in the Government’s Budget rescue plan for struggling high streets. He sent out a scathing email the day after the Chancellor’s big speech attacking plans to downgrade the main Post Office in Beverley, the town he represents, and replacing it with a counter service in WH Smith.

IT’S not just the North that has every reason to feel aggrieved by the Budget. Once again, there was no acknowledgement of the rural economy – or agriculture. Just saying...

ONE explanation for the state of politics is the declining standard of House of Commons debates.

David Davis – the former Brexit Secretary – refused to take interventions when he took part in the post-Budget debate and made a blatant pitch for the Tory leadership when he said the Tories, as a “party of aspiration”, must “do better” and ensure home ownership is available to a “whole new generation”.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP will need to brush up his poor communication skills if he’s to do better than 2005 when he lost out to David Cameron in the Conservative leadership race.

Just as poor were contributions on the day of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s speech from Paul Masterton (Tory) and Mohammad Yasin (Labour). Heads down, they made no attempt to engage with their opponents as they read out speeches that a half capable sixth form student could have written in advance.

If they encouraged discussion, and took interventions, they might – just – become better politicians in time.

BBC politics presenter Nick Robinson has come up with a new way to implore leaders to use plain English. He told Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, to “translate into fluent human” the conclusions of a Brexit skills report.

FINALLY an uplifting tweet from former North Yorkshire jockey Freddie Tylicki on the second anniversary of the horror fall that left him paralysed . Now helping his sister Madeleine train her horses from his wheelchair, he posted: “There’s always someone worse off than you which makes me appreciate what I can still do.

“I take this day as I am blessed to be alive. I’ve come a long way, I’m alive and I’m well. I’m proud of who I am and the man that I’ve become.” Humbling words to end the week.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk