George Osborne: Politicians need to be 'bolder and more ambitious' with policies for the North

Politicians need to “step up” and be “bolder and more ambitious” for the North, former Chancellor George Osborne has said.

"Cancelling" the HS2 eastern leg is among the “setbacks” that northern regions have faced in recent years, Mr Osborne said as he called for more “big ideas” from Conservatives and Labour.

He made the comments as he marked eight years since his original speech laying out the need for a “Northern Powerhouse”.

Mr Osborne, chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “Eight years after my speech the vision of building a northern powerhouse is as strong as ever - but rather than being imposed by a single politician it’s now rooted in the communities of the north, who know that working together they can achieve much more than working apart.

George Osborne laid out his Northern Powerhouse plan eight years ago

“Lots has been achieved, like the new mayors, and the investment and jobs that have flowed to cities like Leeds; and there have been setbacks too, like the cancelling of HS2’s eastern leg and the downgrading of a high speed transpennine link.

“But eight years on I can’t help wondering where the big ideas have gone too. I don’t hear much from either the Tories or Labour about really radical policies that power the north and change the economic geography of our country. It’s time they stepped up, and became bolder and more ambitious.”

In June 2014, Mr Osborne spoke in Manchester about his desire to create “a collection of northern cities - sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world.”

He had said at the time: “The cities of the north are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.

“So the powerhouse of London dominates more and more. And that’s not healthy for our economy. It’s not good for our country.”

Meanwhile, the head of the influential Northern Research Group of MPs “applauded” the speech and said it had been a “seminal” moment. Former Northern Powerhouse Minister and chair of the Northern Research Group Jake Berry told the Yorkshire Post it had heralded the arrival of “a political party that understands our potential but also our challenges as well.”

“That’s why I think it was such an important moment for us as a nation,” he added.

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Every single Northern Powerhouse promise was broken. Now they’ve abandoned ‘levelling up’. The Tories are never going to be bold and ambitious for the north, but Labour will.

“The Conservatives have written us off for too long. Labour will smash up a century of centralisation and put power back in people’s hands, to bring good jobs back to places that have lost them, get money back into people’s pockets, and rebuild our communities from the ground up.”

A Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “This government’s central mission is to level up every part of the United Kingdom - a massively ambitious, generation-defining project to spread opportunity across the country, boost local communities and create well-paid jobs.

“Our landmark Levelling Up White Paper includes ambitious regeneration plans for Sheffield, devolution negotiations for York and North Yorkshire and Hull and East Riding, and targeted investment and support in education across Yorkshire & the Humber.”

They also pointed to projects in locations such as “Bradford, Scarborough, Goole, Doncaster and Wakefield”.