Northern Powerhouse must not leave behind towns and rural areas, Minister Jake Berry tells Leeds conference

The Northern Powerhouse Minister has urged leaders to keep challenging his government on their ambitions for the North as he revealed plans to ensure the region's towns and rural areas are not left behind in the coming years.

Jake Berry at the Great Northern Conference. Pic: Tony Johnson
Jake Berry at the Great Northern Conference. Pic: Tony Johnson

Speaking at the Great Northern Conference in Leeds today, Jake Berry warned of the risk of creating a second 'North-South divide' between rural and urban areas if too much focus was put in cities.

The Minister defended his Government's record after former Chancellor George Osborne, the founder of the Northern Powerhouse concept, criticised it for a "lack of vision".

Sign up to our daily newsletter

And after a One Yorkshire devolution deal was ruled out by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire earlier this month, he said it was "time for local leaders to rise to the challenge" of brokering a new arrangement for transferring powers from Whitehall.

He told the audience of business and political leaders: "Now I know the architects of the Northern Powerhouse will tell you that the Northern Powerhouse is at its best when it is delivering for our great cities.

"They are right, it is at its best delivering for our cities, growth in our our towns is important too. That is why in Grimsby we are piloting something call the town deal, this I hope will be a blueprint for all our other northern power towns.

"We are having a conversation in government at the moment about what do we do for left-behind places.

The Great Northern Conference was held in Leeds today. Pic: Tony Johnson

"Do you remember five years ago? That is how we used to to talk about our northern cities. We have to remember that ambition and create growth everywhere.

"After decades of a north-south divide, the Northern Powerhouse cannot create a similar divide between and urban and rural areas, nor should we create a division between the East and the West of the North of England.

"So as we develop the next stage of regional growth in the North, let's ensure no-one is left behind. The new strategy we are working on needs to ensure our great northern cities continue to get the tools they need to drive the engine of our region's economy.

"But I hope today we can move beyond that. In fact I want to be more ambitious than that. Let's create a Northern Powerhouse that will grow the whole of the North of England."

Mr Berry said the Northern Powerhouse Strategy launched in 2016 by the Government no longer works and that a new strategy was needed for the post-Brexit era.

He said: "Government constantly needs challenging from the North of England. That is how the Northern Powerhouse started, its impetus was created in Manchester.

"Let's do that all over again. Create the ideas in the North of England and then go to London and persuade the Chancellor it was his idea all along, that's how you deliver a Northern Powerhouse.

"The Northern Powerhouse 2.0 and the new ideas have to be part of the industrial strategy for the North of England."