What is the “Northern Powerhouse”?
In June 2014, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne stated that England’s northern cities were ‘collectively not strong enough’ and argued that a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – covering a a wide region stretching from North Wales to North Yorkshire – to redress the north-south economic imbalance. This meant creating a more powerful set of northern cities through improved transport connections, attracting investment in science, technology and manufacturing, and introducing elected Mayors.
Five metro mayors have since been introduced whilst improved rail connections remain largely at the planning stage. The government published a Northern Powerhouse strategy in November 2016, but over time its meaning has evolved somewhat with new governments – for example with more emphasis on skills development and support for towns, and changes to the rail plans. Since coming to office, Boris Johnson has spoken more of ‘levelling up’ than the Northern Powerhouse, although the two concepts share similar principles in terms of reducing regional economic imbalances.
There have been two Ministers for the Northern Powerhouse: James Wharton held the role from May 2015-July 2016, and Jake Berry attended Cabinet in the role from July 2019 until February 2020.