Exclusive: Government has ‘turned down the volume’ on Northern Powerhouse, says Burnham

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has criticised the government for flagging in its interest in the Northern Powerhouse, arguing that the Midlands Engine is being given a greater focus.

In an exclusive interview with PSE, Burnham said that Whitehall has “turned down the volume” on the Northern Powerhouse, and instead turned its attention to the Midlands Engine, a flagship government scheme aimed at promoting prosperity and economic progression in the Midlands region.

When asked on the government’s progress with the granting of powers to regions such as Yorkshire and Cheshire, the mayor said: “I honestly don’t know, I don’t know where they’re up to with it all. What I do know is that they do seem to talk endlessly about the Midlands Engine, and increasingly it would appear that things are being given to the West Midlands that are not being offered to us.

“We’re not against the Midlands doing well, but don’t promise the north all of this stuff, and then all of a sudden switch focus to the Midlands. That kind of behaviour gets politics and politicians a bad name. If you make promises to people, honour those promises. Actually, I think a lot of people would recognise that the north of England, particularly when it comes to transport, should be at the front of the queue for investment.

“We’re at that moment where the government has turned down the volume on the Northern Powerhouse and turned up the volume on the Midlands Engine. I think what we need is turned up volume on both, so that we really see a rebalancing of the country beginning to take effect.”

Earlier this month, Burnham attended the first ever Convention of the North comprised of authority leaders from the region including Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford City Council.

The Greater Manchester mayor said the fading interest from the government has been revived by the convention and continued calls from the northern region to be granted greater powers.

“That’s what the convention is all about,” he added. “People came together on both sides of the Pennines, and said: ‘You walked us to the top of the hill, the government. You promised us all of these things, we’re not going back down, we’re up here now, and we’re going to demand it more for ourselves, and we’re going to shape it more for ourselves.’ It was a really positive event, it was a real sense that the whole concept of the north coming together as one is a powerful one.”

PSE sat down with Burnham in its latest magazine on 9 October for a chat on devolution and local government around the UK. Get your copy here.

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