Three in four voters not convinced by Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse

THE CHANCELLOR’S ‘Northern Powerhouse’ promise hasn’t convinced people in Yorkshire that genuine control from Whitehall to town halls is on its way.

Chancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne

Mayor plans have also been given a huge thumbs down by the region.

While more people in Yorkshire have an understanding of devolution than any other English region, and more than half are in favour of it, 75% of people don’t think the Northern Powerhouse can achieve its ambition.

A survey undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ipsos MORI of 4000 people comes just weeks after Sheffield City Region was handed a £30m a year deal by Chancellor George Osborne to spend on creating jobs and public transport.

Labour’s shadow and communities secretary, Jon Trickett, said the survey showed the clear ‘distrust’ for the Government’s plan, which he said was failing to hold sway because it was being imposed top-down.

The survey found most people in Yorkshire support the idea that local council should have more flexibility in responding to regional needs.

They are also convinced local politicians know better than national politicians what is best for their area.

But just 13% of those living in Yorkshire are more likely to support devolution if there is an elected mayor - the lowest of any northern region - and that’s despite widespread support for the work of Boris Johnson in London.

Jonathan House, partner and PwC’s Local Government leader in the North, said: “It’s not surprising that awareness and support for decentralisation is highest in the North, where the debate has been strongly led, clearly articulated and evidence based.

“But these results show there is still work to do around communicating what decentralisation and the Northern Powerhouse means for Northern citizens, as there is considerable apathy and scepticism around the initiative.”

Support for local control was found to be highest for housing, planning and transport, but the balance tips in the other direction when it comes to benefit payments, crime and policing and large scale infrastructure projects related to air, rail and road, which most people think should remain under the control of Westminster.

Mr Trickett, shadow communities secretary and MP for Hemsworth, said: “This distrust of Westminster is clearly revealed in the poll because people want to see devolution. On the other hand, the poll equally shows that the idea of bringing power to Yorkshire cannot be imposed from on high. In the end, the best way forward is for local people to build from the bottom up a new settlement for Yorkshire and the North rather than imposed from the top down.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Ending the decades old gap between the north and south and taking power out of Whitehall and handing it to local people who know what is best for their area, is at the heart of our plans to build the Northern Powerhouse.

“This survey shows that the people of the north back our ambitious plans on devolution which are gathering an unstoppable momentum with four revolutionary deals now agreed.”