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Mayor backs new body to speak for the North

Today's transport summit in Leeds has agreed that a representative body of political, business and other leaders should be set up to speak with one voice for the North.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has today hailed the conclusions of a transport summit in Leeds, which has agreed that a representative body of political, business and other leaders should be set up to speak with one voice for the North.

The new body is needed to bring the Northern perspective to crucial long-term issues currently being debated, such as Brexit and transport funding,

It will also be able to make the case for further devolution of power from Westminster to the North of England.

The summit called on Government to honour the promises it has already made to the North to improve rail infrastructure and pledged to build a broad-based campaign, working with Northern Members of Parliament, to win Parliamentary backing for its demands.

The new pan-Northern body, already being dubbed by some as a “Council of the North”, could have a critical role to play in forthcoming Budget and Brexit discussions.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Today's unprecedented gathering of Northern political and business leaders sends a clear message: the North is getting organised and ready to get its voice heard more loudly than ever before.

“It is time now for the North to pool its political influence and show a real willingness to use it, like London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been doing in recent times.  Westminster has failed the North of England but in the past we have struggled to speak with one clear voice on its unfair decisions. With the change in the Parliamentary arithmetic, we have a chance to win more support for our cause.

“By working together with our Council Leaders, Businesses and MPs – alongside trade unions and the community and voluntary sector - we can ensure a strong voice and a fair deal for the North.  If we get this right, a new ‘Council of the North’ could mark a real change to the politics of our country.” 

Plans for the new forum were agreed at the Northern Transport Summit in Leeds.  This unprecedented gathering of business and political Leaders was called after the Transport Secretary cast doubt over long promised improvements to Northern railways.  Leaders at the summit demanded a fair funding deal from the Government to help rebalance and revitalise the economy of the North. 

Full statement from today’s Transport Summit in Leeds

 “The North’s huge economic potential is being held back by an outdated, expensive and slow transport system.

“The idea of "Northern Powerhouse" driving forward a rebalanced UK economy in the 21st century, was supposed to right this wrong, and is still strongly supported. A successful North means more jobs, a stronger tax base, better inward investment opportunities and greater success for business for the whole of the UK. But none of this will be realised unless there is substantial new investment in modern transport infrastructure linking the great cities of the North.

"Recent statements by the Transport Secretary have sent worrying messages that this essential investment may not be delivered in full, with some key commitments dropped, or substantially delayed. We believe that people across the North have waited long enough for transport services on a par with other parts of the country. The disparity between transport in the North of England and London must now be addressed.

"Therefore, this summit calls on the Government to: 

  • honour in full commitments already given to deliver improvements to rail services across the North, including full electrification, track and signalling improvements on key commuter routes and the upgrade of hub stations, and to remove uncertainty about this at the earliest opportunity; 
  • prioritise its manifesto commitment to deliver new west-east rail infrastructure reaching across the North, work with Transport for the North to set out a clear timetable for its delivery in the Autumn Budget, develop an appraisal process to support it, and provide evidence that this timetable will not be adversely affected by decisions to fund other large infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country; and
  • set out a fairer distribution of transport funding - road and rail, revenue and capital - across all regions of the country.

"Finally, at a time when crucial long-term decisions are about to be taken, not just on transport but also on the country's relationship with the EU, this summit agrees to establish a representative and accountable forum of sectors including political and business leaders, trade unions, voluntary and community sector, and universities to enable the voice of the North of England to be properly and effectively represented on issues of common concern.

“This summit agrees to update all Members of Parliament on the conclusions of today's discussion and will work with them to build a broad-based campaign, and seek Parliamentary endorsement of our calls on the Government, including a debate when Parliament returns.”

Signed by; 

Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council 

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council

Article Published: 13/12/2018 22:08 PM