“The old model of trying to run everything in our country from the centre of London is broken. It has led to an unbalanced economy,” said UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in October 2015, as he announced devolution packages for the Tees Valley and the North East as part of his Northern Powerhouse initiative.
The Chancellor’s comment captured the spirit of the Northern Powerhouse plans. The government intends the initiative to rebalance Britain’s economy, enabling the North to challenge London and the South East’s economic dominance. It hopes that the large cities of the North will increase their levels of collaboration, connecting their economies and taking greater control over regional government policy.
The two key prongs of the scheme are devolution and transport infrastructure. On the devolution front, Mr Osborne has offered city regions increased budgetary powers in areas such as local transport, employment support and skills provision, as well as funding packages ranging from £15 million to £30 million per year for 30 years to boost local economies, with the proviso that the regions take on an elected mayor. City regions that have signed up for a devolution deal so far include Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, the North East, Tees Valley, and, from the Midlands, Birmingham.