Most people in the North of England have either never heard of, or know nothing about, the Northern Powerhouse.
A BBC-commissioned survey of 1, 003 people across the North of England found 44 per cent had never heard of the policy, while a fifth had heard of it, but knew nothing about it.
Some 30 per cent said they had heard of and knew a little about the project, while six per cent said they knew a great deal about the Northern Powerhouse.
George Osborne’s project is meant to be a route to softening the economic gap between the North and South, through improving infrastructure and attracting investment to Northern towns and cities.
In an early announcement outlining the plans, Osborne said it would be a collection of northern cities sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world.
A significant part of the plan the electrification of the railways, taking in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York has seen delays and pauses on projects.
It seems though, that the chancellor’s aims of promoting growth in Northern towns and cities, while diverting power, have not reached the people the plans hope to benefit most directly.
The ComRes survey which the BBC had commissioned, found 82 per cent of respondents felt local politicians should have control over services such as transport and health, as opposed to MPs in London.
There was also mixed feeling on whether the government would boost the North’s economy 50 per cent of respondents were confident it would, while 40 per cent disagreed. Sentiment among younger demographics was more positive, with confidence in the government improving the Northern economy rising to 65 per cent of 18-24-year-olds. Some 47 per cent of over-55s agreed.
Government minister Greg Clark welcomed the report and pointed to the statistic showing 82 per cent of those in the North were in favour of decisions being made by those in the North rather than London and Westminster. That’s exactly what I think and that’s what this project is all about, he said.
Clark suggested transferring more power to those who live in the North and know its workings is a far better way? than having London call the shots.
Plans outlined in November saw the announcement that Greater Manchester would be run by an elected mayor from 2017 to devolve fiscal power closer to where the money is spent. This followed the city being given power over its health budget back in February.
Lisa Nandy, shadow energy and climate change secretary as well as the MP for the Greater Manchester constituency of Wigan, said: We would like to see more powers devolved out of Westminster and Whitehall so local areas can have tax-raising powers as well as deciding how to spend a very small number of budgets that the Treasury has current devolved.
She said Osborne’s deal so far hadn’t given us much scope? to involve people in the decision-making process.