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Mayoral candidates say May must honour Northern Powerhouse promises

Candidates for next year’s mayoral elections in Manchester and Liverpool have accused the new government of having “changed [its] tune” over the Northern Powerhouse.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham, the Labour mayoral candidates in Manchester and Liverpool, gave a joint press conference, in which they called on prime minister Theresa May to honour the government’s commitments to the north without delay.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, think tank Centre for Cities warned that devolution could “come to a standstill.”

Burnham said: “The message is this: prime minister, you must honour your promises,” he said. “Last year at the general election you couldn’t move for Tory candidates wandering round these parts promising people the earth. We’re just over a year away from that and it seems they have changed their tune.

“We’ve had newspaper briefing after newspaper briefing over the summer saying the plug is about to be pulled on the Northern Powerhouse concept.

“The thing I find most worrying was the suggestion investment in our rail services would be scaled back. The people here in Manchester have waited long enough for decent high quality rail services. It’s simply not acceptable for promises to be made and to be taken away.”

Tony Lloyd and Joe Anderson, the current mayors of the two cities, have promised a new partnership to protect the interests of their cities following the referendum result and requested a meeting with May to ensure that the interests of the north are protected in negotiations with the EU.

Rotherham said: “The doubt and confusion was created in Downing Street, so it’s for the prime minister to provide some clarity and clarification of what it is she actually thinks should now happen with both high-speed rail and the Northern Powerhouse.”

After May became prime minister, Solace wrote to urge her to “accelerate” fiscal devolution. Andrew Percy, the new Northern Powerhouse minister, has promised that the new government “will continue to support major investments to unlock the potential of the north”.

And the DCLG insisted last week that it will continue to uphold elected mayors for all devolved bodies, despite reports that May was considering dropping the policy.

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