Is the notion of a Northern Powerhouse a myth or a mission?
Prime Minister Theresa May’s reshuffle has seen several well-known heads tumble, including that of Tatton MP and Chancellor George Osborne who was flying the flag for a Northern Powerhouse.
It was Mr Osborne who first muted the idea of creating a Northern Powerhouse and was responsible for appointing a Northern Powerhouse minister.
Yesterday, the Government announced that Andrew Percy MP, minister for Brigg and Goole in East Yorkshire, would be taking over as Northern Powerhouse minister from James Wharton, MP for Stockton South.
In March of this year, Manchester became one of five northern English cities to have signed a joint commitment with the government to work together to ensure the full potential of a Northern Powerhouse is realised.
The leaders of the five ‘core’ cities – Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield – pledged to work together with the government to deliver the vision of a combined north of England ‘powerhouse’.
While devolution and improved transport links between the great northern cities are key parts of the Northern Powerhouse, the signatories of the statement also commit to working together to ensure the skills, housing and enterprise development base to support growth.
So what is likely to become of the so called Northern Powerhouse initiative?
In many respects it is too early to be sure that the commitment undertaken by the five city leaders can be realised. But as Northern Powerhouse minister, Mr Percy is looking forward to his new role as he described on his Facebook page: “Yesterday when my phone rang and it was the Number 10 switchboard. I of course assumed this was a colleague playing a joke, as it is not unusual for pretend calls from Downing Street to come through.
“Anyway, it actually turns out that the Prime Minister does indeed wish to make me a Minister in the Department of Communities and Local Government responsible for the Northern Powerhouse.”
Mr Percy went on: “I’ve decided to accept this position and, as a proud Northerner, it is one of the few roles in Government I would actually quite relish. I hope having served ten years as a local Councillor before becoming an MP, I also have something to contribute on the local government front. I’ve always championed our area as a backbencher and now I get to champion the North within government.”
Mr Percy concluded: “I am genuinely keen to give this role my best shot.
“As I watched Theresa speak outside Downing Street and address those families directly who find it hard to get by these days, I actually felt like I had a Leader and a Prime Minister who not only spoke for me, but also spoke to my family and the people I live among and grew up with.”