Chancellor George Osborne once again delivered a Budget in which he championed the role devolution can play in helping to bring about economic growth and new jobs. Osborne unveiled a number of new devolution deals, hailing that “the devolution revolution is taking hold”.
Alongside the Budget the Government published a joint statement with the North’s Core Cities on ‘Northern Powerhouse Phase 2’, setting out the priorities as the project moves into its next stage. Although a joint statement, it is still possible to decode what the Government’s aims are for the next phase for the Northern Powerhouse by analysing its content.
What the Government said: “Building the Northern Powerhouse is crucial to rebalancing the national economy. This agenda is based on the sound economic theory that through working together”.
What the Government meant: “The idea of the Northern Powerhouse is not just a political stunt, it is based on research which highlights having concentrated economic activity in one geographic region (South East) is not good for the long-term growth prospects of the entire country”.
What the Government said: “We need to focus on how powers are used, as well as where they sit”.
What the Government meant: “We have given powers away to a number of different local authorities and regions, some of who only recently decided to work together in this way. We now need to ensure the devolutions settlements are workable”.
What the Government said: “We will work with every part of the north to meet our shared objectives”.
What the Government meant: “The Northern Powerhouse is not just about Manchester. HS3 and the Trans-Pennine tunnel both may benefit Manchester but the Northern Powerhouse is about the whole region”.
What the Government said: “We will build on the strong progress made through the development of the Northern Transport Strategy over the past eighteen months, and will expand our focus to look in particular at skills and employment, trade and investment, enterprise and innovation, and housing.”
What the Government meant: “The Northern Powerhouse has become a debate about infrastructure investment. We will now look to move on from this debate, partly through investments like HS3, but also by shifting the focus to areas like trade and investment”.
What the Government said: “Over the past 18 months, we have made good progress on ensuring that cities have the powers they need to fulfil this potential. This process is not complete”.
What the Government meant: “Anyone who thinks the devolution revolution is a gimmick should take notice. We will continue to reach deals and devolve more powers where there is appetite, as illustrated by the announcement to devolve some justice matters to Greater Manchester”.