The Northern Powerhouse Minister has demanded a Cabinet role in the next Government and said he will use his seat at the top table to take on the Treasury over investment in the North.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post almost two years since he took on the job, Jake Berry accused Philip Hammond’s department of withholding vital cash from the region and called for the next administration to have more “political vision”.
Mr Berry said: “Everything the Treasury has done has been done on quite a strict value for money scoring, which is quite right because we are spending taxpayers’ money and we have to spend it in an efficient way.
“But the Northern Powerhouse can be a bit more than that. Sometimes it has just got to be a leap of faith.
“If we don’t invest in the North, the North will never be as good as it can be.
“So, where some projects may, because areas of the North are a low wage economy, just fall below that really strict value for money scoring, which I support in the Treasury, we need the political vision to say – ‘look, this is more important, this is about transforming people’s lives across the North of England’.
"You can’t put that in a formula.”
The Rossendale and Darwen MP, who first entered Parliament in 2010, added that in order to drive a vision for the North through Whitehall, his Ministerial position must be upgraded to a Cabinet post.
“You have to go beyond just counting the costs and look at the benefit and I think that a Cabinet position will enable you to make that change,” he said.
Mr Berry, who was born and raised in Liverpool, also made a pitch to the next Tory leader to keep him on in the role.
“Some periods in the last two years, it has been a very lonely furrow that I have ploughed driving the Northern Powerhouse on across Government,” he said.
“And I hope that whoever takes this role, and I sincerely hope it is me whoever is Prime Minister, that we really now drive forward the North’s economy, that we really now start to get a cross-Government commitment, where we don’t get Government departments standing in the way of driving forward the North of England.”
Turning to his priorities for the next Government, Mr Berry said that although the challenge of leaving the European Union will likely dominate the political agenda in the short term, it should also be seen as an opportunity to further the ambitions of the North and eliminate long-standing inequalities across the UK.
He said: “The future of Britain is about devolution, raising the Northern economy through investment in infrastructure, digital connectivity, education and business so we can play an active part in Britain’s economy after we leave the European Union.”
He added: “Brexit has got to happen, but the dividend and the golden thread of Brexit needs to be an emboldened and an empowered North of England.”
Mr Berry also praised the Power Up The North campaign, which saw 33 of the region’s titles – including The Yorkshire Post – demand a detailed plan from political leaders on how they will rebalance the UK’s economy.
He said: “I really welcome this campaign and welcome The Yorkshire Post, and other papers as well, forcing this up the agenda...
"I think the way many of the [Tory leadership] candidates want to get behind this shows that the Conservative party knows that we stand at a crossroads in our nation’s story and the Northern Powerhouse is very much written in bold letters across the next chapter, whoever leads us.”