TORY grandee Michael Heseltine today warns that the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda will be put at further risk unless the Brexit political deadlock is resolved.
The former Deputy Prime Minister will deliver a keynote policy speech in Leeds calling for major planning reforms so that every community in the region can also benefit from future investment rather than key cities.
“With Westminster fully occupied by Brexit, and pressing challenges facing northern communities, there is little room for complacency,” he said in advance of the launch of a landmark report produced by the Royal Town Planning Institute.
Lord Heseltine’s intervention comes just hours after he said that the Conservative Party risks being captured by the “narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage” following the Brexit Party’s success in last week’s European Parliament elections.
He has called on candidates who are battling to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister to rule out a no-deal departure from the EU.
And, in an exclusive column for The Yorkshire Post, Lord Heseltine says the Northern Powerhouse agenda – and ensuring smaller towns, rural areas and coastal communities benefit from investment – is crucial to healing national divisions.
“We know that serious social and economic problems still persist in the North,” he writes, before citing the regeneration lessons that he learned 40 years ago when he was Environment Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s Government.
“The EU referendum showed what happens when communities feel excluded from important decisions about their future, and when national investment consistently neglects parts of the country.
“Inequality breeds a legitimate resentment with the status quo. It must be tackled head on. The North is home to great engines of industrial growth, incredible landscapes and cultural assets, and a growing, diverse population.
“But if we want to create a true Northern Powerhouse, then that vision must be transformational for all people and places across the North, not just the key cities.”
The RTPI study claimed that a joined-up planning framework for the whole region continues to be undermined by “unfinished devolution arrangements, fragmented governance structures, and an excessive focus on the delivery of housing numbers”.
Inequality gap is widening
THE economic and social gaps between the richest and poorest parts of the UK will widen without Government action, a former head of the Civil Service has warned.
Lord Kerslake, a former chief executive of Sheffield City Council, says the divide between London and the rest of the UK is still widening despite efforts to tackle inequalities.
The UK2070 Commission, chaired by Lord Kerslake, has today published a preliminary report into the issue following a major inquiry into the issue.
“Without a radically different approach and conscious effort to rebalance, the gap will continue to widen,” he says.