Northern Powerhouse paralysed by Brexit obsession, says McKenna

Frank McKenna has spoken out against both the government and opposition parties, arguing that an obsession with Brexit is hindering Northern Powerhouse progress.

 

Frank McKenna

Speaking ahead of the Labour and Conservative Party conferences, Frank said: “I think Lord Jim O’ Neil had it right when he said recently that the momentum that had been achieved under the leadership of former chancellor George Osborne for the Northern Powerhouse initiative has been lost in recent months.

“The chaos that we have suffered and experienced with our rail services over the Summer has inevitably been highlighted as the clearest example of centrally managed services not delivering at a regional level.

“However, the lack of progress on skills and education is of equal concern; when will Whitehall devolve the responsibility and financial resources to our city-regions so that we can begin to genuinely tackle the appalling skills gap that we are experiencing, and which stalls business growth across the north?

“What is happening in Yorkshire? It is no good the government saying they want to listen to local voices, and then ignore those voices when they come up with a model that they don’t like.

“Theresa May and her colleagues appear to be obsessed with Brexit. They could be forgiven if the negotiations on our withdrawal from the EU were progressing, but they have been a shambles – and this uncertainty isn’t helping business either.”

Frank also criticised the opposition, saying: “What are Labour saying about the devolution agenda? I don’t see any pressure coming from the opposition benches to crack on with advancing existing devolution deals in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region; and coming up with ideas for Lancashire and Cheshire, so that the northwest counties, too, can play a role in the Northern Powerhouse.” The Downtown boss concluded: “If this continues into the New Year, the Northern Powerhouse will be seen as no more than a moribund brand that is being used by Westminster politicians to pat northerners on the head with promises of jam tomorrow. We must begin to see real progress on the key issues that were flagged as crucial to balancing the economy of UK PLC by the previous Conservative leadership- infrastructure, transport, skills, investment and economic development.”