Percy promises Manchester will not dominate 'powerhouse'

A MINISTER has promised the new Government is focused on helping all parts of the North to grow and called for progress on devolution deals to give Yorkshire more control over its own affairs.

Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy was given responsibility for the Government's 'northern powerhouse' drive by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May and today moved to reassure other areas of the North worried that Manchester is the focus of Whitehall's attention.

Concerns have been growing that Yorkshire is in danger of swapping a North-South divide for an East-West one as Manchester dominates plans to improve transport in the North and is given more powers to make its own decisions free from Government control.

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Mr Percy used a visit to Hull, his first official engagement as Northern Powerhouse Minister, to promise the May government will have a broad view of economic growth in the North.

He said: "Manchester, Leeds, the big cities in the North are obviously central to what happens in terms of the economy of the North but the northern powerhouse isn't just about that.

"The economy of the Humber is hugely important you only have to look at the port structures around here and how much business and trade that takes place in the North starts here.

"So I am very clear that, of course, yes, our core cities are really important to the northern powerhouse but actually whether it is Sunderland, whether it's Beverley, whether it is Manchester all of those communities are equally important. The rural economy is as important because it employs so many people in the North as they urban economy.

"I don't want to get in to the whole is it Manchester versus Bradford or Bridlington versus Burnley it isn't about that. We all want the same thing which is development and growth in the North.

"All elements of it are important."

One of Mr Percy's first acts as a minister was to push regulations through parliament which will enable the devolution deal agreed with the Sheffield City Region group of councils to come into effect, including the creation of a new mayor for the area in 2017.

Negotiations over similar agreements covering other parts of Yorkshire have hit the buffers as councils struggle to agree whether to have a single deal for the rest of the region or several covering smaller areas.

Mr Percy, who will be a key figure in the discussions, said: "I want the devolution deals to go ahead because they are really important but we should remember there is already a considerable commitment from the Government in this area, £113m, its not the case that you have to have that devolution deal to access Government support.

"But there's so much more that can come. Actually I think one of the biggest issues around I hear as a northerner myself and a local lad here is a disconnection with the people who make decisions for them be that Westminster or, as we saw recently, further afield.

"I think it's really important we get the devolution deals in place because that does bring more power, more locally exercised power closer to the people and it comes with some distinct advantages."

However Mr Percy ruled out the new Government departing from the position taken by its predecessor that the solution should be found at a local level and imposing an agreement.