Yorkshire leaders confront Boris Johnson over Northern Powerhouse commitment

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
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Boris Johnson has been urged to go further to realise his pledge to support the Northern Powerhouse, as Yorkshire’s political leaders called for more detail from the new Prime Minister.

Over the weekend, Mr Johnson made a speech in Manchester in which he threw his weight behind the ambitious £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project, beginning with a commitment to overhauling the Leeds-Manchester connection.

But today, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis, alongside Yorkshire’s most influential council leaders have called on the Prime Minister to commit to a devolution that would unlock the areas potential after Brexit.

In a letter the group suggest that ministers give the green to a series of interim devolution deals agreed across Yorkshire to run in parallel with the existing Sheffield City Region agreement, leading to a One Yorkshire deal in 2020.

Such a deal has previously been ruled out by the Government, with the ex-Communities Secretary James Brokenshire saying it did not meet official criteria.

But in a fresh appeal to the new administration, the letter states: “Devolution in Yorkshire is critical to deliver our shared objectives, which cross political divides and are about growth in a post-Brexit world.

“We hope that you will consider our proposal favourably, and we would of course welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters with you.

“It would send the clearest signal of intent to the people of Yorkshire to receive confirmation of your support for our proposal on or before Yorkshire day on 1 August. Together we can unlock the potential for Yorkshire!”

Responding to Mr Johnson’s transport proposals, Mr Jarvis said that "we now need to see action, not just words" and investment was needed for the whole of the Northern Powerhouse Route.

Proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail, connecting Liverpool and Hull with Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds, were submitted to government earlier this year and were being reviewed by Department for Transport and Treasury bosses.

But Number 10 has now promised to publish detailed plans for the Manchester to Leeds leg this autumn after a review of the controversial HS2 scheme connecting London to Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

Northern leaders are expected to be watching closely to see whether the Manchester-Leeds leg of Northern Powerhouse Rail comes at the expense of the later stage of HS2, which would connect Leeds to the capital by 2033.

Judith Blake, Labour leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead, said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail is key to our vision for a modern, reliable transport network that delivers faster journey times, additional capacity and greater reliability and I hope the Government will now work with us to accelerate delivery of this project.

“By integrating Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and an upgraded trans-Pennine line at a transformed Leeds Station we can maximise the positive impact of these investments for the benefit of all our communities.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership representing civic and business leaders, said: ”This is a seminal moment for the North – the entire Northern Powerhouse concept is all about connecting the cities and towns of the North to boost productivity.

"Northern Powerhouse Partnership has been making a strong case for rebalancing our economy and it is heartening to see the first major policy announcement by the new Prime Minister is to benefit the North – matching the commitment of businesses already investing here.

“As well as faster journey times, enhanced capacity and greater frequency, the whole Northern Powerhouse Rail as a network will provide opportunities for our young people to secure the skilled jobs we need to drive productivity and link up the great cities of the North to stimulate economic growth.

"A key part of one of the new lines we need is from Manchester to Bradford through to Leeds, which will benefit those in Liverpool and to Manchester Airport when those sections are also built as well as upgrades so trains can travel on from Leeds to Darlington and Newcastle, as well as wider improvements to for instance get to Sheffield by different routes.”