Campaigners fighting for the North’s economic growth and prosperity are calling on the Government to end the region’s treatment as “second class”.

Representatives from local and national government, education and the private sector gathered for The Great Northern Conference 2022, organised by the Yorkshire Post.

The conference focused on the funding, partnerships and other actions needed to successfully drive forward plans for regional growth.

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Keynote speaker Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, used the platform to criticise years of “broken promises and inactivity” and call on the Government to enhance its commitment to the region.

He said: “Quite simply we haven’t seen any activity at all from the Government to fulfil their promise of ‘levelling up’ in the North of England and driving the region forward.

“We’ve ended up second class citizens, with a second class infrastructure, and a second class transport system.”

He added: “How many conferences have we all been to since then Chancellor George Osborne first announced the concept for a Northern Powerhouse almost ten years ago?

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“Whilst there’s been lots of talk at a national level, this hasn’t been matched on the ground with action to implement the real change we need. There’s no doubt that some positive things have been done across the region, but the fact is we’ve achieved these ourselves, The Whitehall machine isn’t

doing things with us.

“We’ve had broken promises, dithering and sheer inactivity. A clear example is Northern Powerhouse Rail which has been on the table, off the table and now part way back on the table. Not surprisingly, many people are losing confidence and becoming extremely cynical.

“If Whitehall comes to Northern Powerhouse Rail with an envelope of all they can afford and ask us for the best solution I wouldn’t argue. However, what I can’t accept is that we’re not being asked for our input, but just having the wrong infrastructure imposed on us – an infrastructure which will only serve to permanently limit growth.

“I’m not prepared to let people down, so we must all rally together to change the conversation and get things done.”

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Lord Jim O’Neill, a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords and vice chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, echoed Mr Burnham’s concerns.

Lord O’Neil said: “Since the announcement of the Northern Powerhouse, there have been six key areas – devolution, skills, education, infrastructure, business and foreign direct investment (FDI).

“We’ve talked about devolution over the years, but what has actually been devolved is another matter altogether.

“With skills, there’s no doubt that some great ideas and initiatives are flying around but Whitehall and Government need to get out of the way and let local partners take control. How can someone sitting in Westminster know what the skills gap is in Bradford or Bournemouth?”

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It comes two weeks after the Government was urged to put an end to the speculation surrounding Northern Powerhouse Rail and press ahead with delivering the long-awaited rail network.

Liz Truss vowed to build the project “in full” during her short stint as Prime Minister, and appeared to commit to Transport for the North’s plan for a £43bn network, with high-speed lines running between Liverpool to Leeds and a new station in Bradford.

Her successor Rishi Sunak has said he will revert to the Department for Transport’s scaled-back proposals, set out by in the Integrated Rail Plan last year, by building one 40-mile line between Warrington and Marsden and upgrading existing lines.