Leaders from across the North have today called on the Government to commit to multi-billion pound infrastructure pledges to boost the region’s economic fortunes.
The call, which is backed by the board of Transport for the North (TfN), a group which represents more than 15 million people, asks Whitehall to deliver on previous commitments promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
It urges the delivery of a ‘Northern Budget’ which would include a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline, featuring road and rail projects which could commence in the next five years.
The budget also includes a call for a commitment to build the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail network by 2040 and a request for a £1bn funding boost for TfN over the next three years.
TfN’s call follows a pledge by the prime minister to turbo-charge infrastructure by delivering a new high-speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds.
Mr Johnson also said on the campaign trail that TfN were ‘making a very, very good case here for £39bn investment in east-west connections from Liverpool to Manchester, Bradford, Leeds.’
‘The North is now at the top of the national political agenda, with promises to balance out the UK’s economy and unleash our potential by better connecting our towns and cities,’ said Barry White, chief executive of TfN.
‘We now need a “Northern Budget” to make both the shovel-ready projects and the ambitious longer-term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.’
Closing the gap between the North and the South is ‘essential’ for enabling the UK to compete on the global stage. However, according to Mr White, the North is ‘constrained by creaking infrastructure’.
Referring to the ‘Northern Budget’, Mr White added: ‘These are the minimum requirements needed to overturn the underinvestment, under different Governments, stretching back decades. It’ll ensure the North becomes greater than the sum of its parts and will get the UK firing on all cylinders.’
Steve Rotheram, metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region, commented: ‘Government may look different, but our ‘asks’ are not. We’re consistent and focussed in our plan for what infrastructure the North needs to unlock its full potential, not just for its own benefit, but for the whole UK. A “Northern Budget” would be the ultimate demonstration of commitment.’
The call for more investment in Northern infrastructure comes days after the chancellor announced a fast-tracked spending round for Government departments for the next year.
‘Whilst the Government is planning for a one-year spending round for its departments against a Brexit backdrop, there is no reason why we can’t see real commitment and recognition of the ambitious pipeline of infrastructure investments the North so badly needs,’ Mr White said.
‘We need to urgently address decades of under-investment in infrastructure in the North which is why we are calling for a “Northern Budget” to help us rebalance the UK economy and deliver for our communities,’ said Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead.
‘A modern, reliable, quick transport system must be the cornerstone of the economic transformation we and the country need to see in the North.’
In response to the call, a spokesperson for the Treasury said the Government was committed to boosting the North by levelling up the regions, through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers, and investing £3.6bn in towns across England. The spokesperson added that Whitehall was already investing over £13bn in improving transport in the North.
This article first appeared on localgov.co.uk.