The race is on across the north of England as leaders compete for their regions to become the seat of two economic hubs.
Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the North.
The move comes on top of the Chancellor’s proposal to build a Treasury output in the region.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north
Northern leaders are now pushing the case for their areas to host the two hubs, with the North East and North West thought to be pushing particularly hard.
The infrastructure bank will fund projects that promise to help the UK reach its ‘net zero’ carbon targets by 2050 and its ‘levelling up’ agenda.
The plans were outlined as part of Sunak’s wider spending review, which laid out how the Government aims to repair the UK economy in the wake of the Covid crisis.
The bank will be up and running by next spring but Sunak did not say where it would be based or how much money it will have.
Conservative MP Jake Berry, former Northern Powerhouse minister and head of the Northern Research Group of MPs, said: ‘There’s likely going to be a lot of stiff competition from regions and leaders.
‘What’s important is that it’s being placed in the North, which shows a commitment by this Government to the region and the levelling up agenda – and a move away from Government jobs and departments focused almost entirely on London.
‘It is also good news when you consider the recent announcement that 22,000, well-paid civil service jobs will be moving out of London and the South East.’
The Chancellor has also promised to build a Treasury outpost in the North.
Designs for the ‘economic campus’ are thought to have been submitted for buildings in areas including Darlington and around Teesside, but a final location has not been confirmed. The plans are some of the firmest commitments yet that the Government will shift power out of London.
Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston
Ministers have also promised to put £4billion towards a fund, which could back local projects in all regions.
While the competition to attract the bank and Treasury outpost will be fierce among MPs, mayors and councils, the race could also create friction if ministers opt to place them in major cities.
Ben Houchen, Conservative mayor for Tees Valley, which is a major hub for heavy industries, said: ‘It’s important that the Government takes the bold decision to base the bank outside of a northern city.
‘Having officials from the bank based outside one of our metropolitan centres will give them a new mindset and allow them to understand the whole country so much better and the different challenges our towns and villages face – which would not happen if the bank was set up in a city like Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester.’
Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said: ‘Levelling up is decades overdue so it is fantastic to finally see it being tackled.
‘Middlesbrough has suffered more than anywhere from political neglect and incompetence. We deserve to host this new bank.
‘The Government should invest in Middlesbrough now and I guarantee them a huge and positive return.’
Under Sunak’s plans, an additional £27billion will be spent next year on infrastructure such as roads, cycle paths, railway lines and power stations, in many areas tying in with the green strategy Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week.
The push is part of plans to plough £100billion into areas such as schools, hospitals and banks in total next year, and £600billion over the next five years.
The Government, in rebounding from Covid, wants the UK to ‘build back better’ by improving motorways, laying better internet cables and building more wind farms.