Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Yorkshire MP Rishi Sunak seemed to confirm that the Treasury could be poised to rip up the rules on public spending to be able to give more cash to the North and the Midlands.
The Times reported this would be the case in December, and said: “Investment decisions would be less focused on overall national economic growth and, for the first time, Whitehall resources would be allocated on the basis of improving the wellbeing of people in the North, or narrowing the productivity gap with the South.”
And Hull North MP Diana Johnson expressed her dismay in the Commons todaythat the North will have to wait until the Budget in mid-March to find out about new investment despite details being given to the national newspaper.
But Mr Sunak said that a review into the processes of how the Government allocates investment is “of course under way”.
The exchange came during Treasury questions, where Labour’s Ms Johnson asked Mr Sunak “what steps he is taking to ensure an equitable distribution of infrastructure investment between London and the North of England”.
Mr Sunak said: “Infrastructure is, of course, a top priority for this Government, we will be publishing the National Infrastructure Strategy alongside the Budget and I can say now that that strategy will contain our ambition to level up across the United Kingdom, ensuring every part of our country, not just London has the opportunity to spread and drive growth in their communities.”
But Ms Johnson said: “I think it’s good that there’s consensus across the House of the need to invest, particularly in transport in the North.
“I noted on the 27th of December, the Chancellor agreed with those comments in the story that was published in The Times and I just wondered whether this House and my constituents will really have to wait until the middle or the beginning of March in order to get the actual detail of what this will mean? And isn’t it right that this House hears it first rather than the newspapers?
Chancellor Sajid Javid was not quoted in the piece but a senior Treasury source told the newspaper: “It is a very big thing. You have to think about the outcomes you want to achieve and work backwards.”
Today, Mr Sunak said: “I think the Honourable Lady is referring to the Government’s plans to review all our frameworks, processes and mechanisms to allocate investment spending.
“That work is of course under way and as more details emerge, the Chancellor and other Ministers will update the house as required.”