Northern Powerhouse minister, and CEO of Rail for the North, both resign
Date added: June 16, 2017
The concept of the Northern Powerhouse was encouraged by George Osborne. He became the Chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership in September 2016. While Heathrow likes to claim its 3rd runway would help the growth of the Northern Powerhouse, the reality is that profitable long haul flights from airports in the north would be negatively impacted by Heathrow getting a greater monopoly of them. The huge sums of public money that would need to be spent on Heathrow surface infrastructure would also possibly mean less money available to be spent in the north and the regions. The Conservative Manifesto said: “We will continue our programme of strategic national investments, including High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport”. However, now the Northern Powerhouse minister, Andrew Percy, has resigned from the job and decided to return to the backbenches. The Manchester Evening News says: “Questions have been raised about the Conservative’s commitment to former Chancellor’s George Osborne’s creation, a project to encourage economic growth in the north.” The Chief Executive of Transport for the North of England, David Brown, has also left his job, to work for Arriva.
The Northern Powerhouse minister has quit… and he announced it on Instagram
MP Andrew Percy has turned down Theresa May to return to backbenches
BY CHARLOTTE COX
15 JUN 2017 (Manchester Evening News)
Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy has announced his resignation on INSTAGRAM.
In a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, the MP for Goole confirmed he had been asked to continue serving in government – but said he had chosen to return to the backbenches instead.
Questions have been raised about the Conservative’s commitment to former Chancellor’s George Osborne’s creation, a project to encourage economic growth in the north.
On his Instagram page, Mr Percy said: “Was a privilege to be asked to continue serving in my role in Government as a Minister, but I have reluctantly decided to step down and leave the Government.
“I thank the Prime Minister for offering me this role again but I have decided to pursue other challenges. She continues to enjoy my full support from the back benches.
“I will not be making any further comment or doing any media on my decision.”
Jake Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen, was later announced as Mr Percy’s replacement.
Downing Street did not issue a response to Mr Percy’s statement.
It was among pledges on Mrs May’s election manifesto to keep the Northern Powerhouse project alive. She also promised to build a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line across the region.
Will Wragg, Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, said: “Andrew has done a fantastic job and I think he’s worked extremely hard in the role and I wish him all the best for the future.
“I know he’ll continue to work hard for the north of England. I don’t think the Northern Powerhouse is at risk – it’s an important role and the government has a commitment to the north regardless.”
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, a left-leaning think tank, said: “Ministers will come and go, but the weight of the North’s £300bn economy continues to gather momentum despite Westminster whims.
“In the North, the votes in 2015, 2016 and 2017 have one thing in common – northerners have each time snubbed the ‘Westminster option’. Miliband, Remain and now Theresa May were rejected by Northern voters who want to see real change.
“Now more than ever, we need a Council of the North in a new federal UK, able to make vital decisions for itself such as on international trade and economic development, and to give a voice to the North during Brexit negotiations.”
The Northern Powerhouse Minister works within the Department for Communities and Local Government with specific responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse policy.
Before Mr Percy, the post was held by former Stockton South MP James Wharton. He lost his seat in last week’s general election.
Transport for the North’s Chief Executive steps down
15 June 2017 (CITL UK)
Transport for the North (TfN) has announced that Chief Executive David Brown will be leaving the organisation in September to take up a new post as Managing Director of Arriva Rail North Ltd which operates the Northern rail franchise.
John Cridland, TfN chair said: “David leaves Transport for the North with our thanks and best wishes for the future. He has been instrumental in developing TfN’s vision of a thriving North of England where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life. He leaves a strong organisation ready to become the UK’s first statutory body with a clear direction to drive economic growth in the North.”
David has been at the forefront of shaping the future of Transport in the North of England making a difference to both private and public sector over the last two years. Under his leadership TfN’s multi-modal Integrated and Smart Travel programme has rapidly developed into a tangible entity and is on track to deliver substantial benefits to customers, modernising the way people plan and pay for travel across the North. He has also been instrumental in the development of the statutory transport plan designed to drive transformational economic growth in the North of England by intelligently developing our transport infrastructure.
Transport for the North will commence recruitment for a new Chief Executive shortly who will be a leading voice for the north, willing to stretch the boundaries of what is expected to maximise on the north’s unique strengths and deliver on the organisation’s vision.
We are working through one of the largest-ever investment programmes in our roads and railways, putting some £40 billion into transport improvements across the United Kingdom over the rest of this decade.
We are investing to reduce travel time and cost, increase capacity and attract investment here in the UK. We will continue our programme of strategic national investments, including High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport – and we will ensure that these great projects do as much as possible to develop the skills and careers of British workers.
The northern powerhouse risks being derailed by the government’s “absolute paranoia” over Heathrow expansion and an “over-emphasis on the south-east at the expense of everywhere else”, the managing director of Manchester airport has said.
In a stark message to Theresa May, who is due to decide this month on the contentious third runway at Heathrow airport, Ken O’Toole said ministers needed to draw up a national aviation policy to address the north-south economic divide.
“We need to be careful that the north and the UK as a whole is not overshadowed again by the south-east,” he said. “If we’re not careful that’s just going to take over.”
In an interview with the Guardian, O’Toole said he was confident May’s government was supportive of ex-chancellor George Osborne’s northern powerhouse agenda – but said there was a lack of a national aviation policy behind the strategy.
“If you really want to drive the northern powerhouse, if you really want to drive the recalibration of north and south, Heathrow ain’t the answer – it’s Manchester airport,” he said.
“I’m not sure I would isolate it to Manchester being overlooked – there seems to be this absolute paranoia or over-emphasis on the south-east to the expense of everywhere else. How can you say you’ve got a national economic strategy if your aviation strategy seems to be over-emphasised on the south-east?”
In the fierce PR battle over the third runway, Heathrow has said that expanding its airport would deliver £12.5bn of growth to the north-west compared to Gatwick’s £8.6bn by 2050. But Manchester airport bosses say it will deliver more than £70bn for the region over the same period, nearly six times the figure put forward by Heathrow.
Pointing out that the £16.8bn Heathrow scheme could take up to 20 years before it is built, O’Toole said there was “a gap in terms of an aviation policy that’s going to make best use of what’s in the UK for those 15 to 20 years while we’re waiting for something to come along”.
Manchester airport is the third-biggest in the UK and the only hub, other than Heathrow, with two runways. Twenty five million passengers travel through Manchester airport every year but it has the capacity to carry 55 million, meaning it could overtake Gatwick to become the UK’s second-biggest airport within 15 to 20 years.
The airport was at the heart of former Osborne’s northern powerhouse agenda, in part because it funnels as much as 60% of the business travel into the north of England. In October last year it hosted the Chinese president Xi Jinping on his state visit to the UK, when he launched a new direct flight from Manchester to Beijing – the first outside London.
O’Toole said the vote to leave the European Union would slow the airport’s growth because airlines and passengers “don’t like uncertainty”. “Airlines are deciding where to put planes and routes 12 to 18 months in advance,” he said. “The longer the uncertainty goes on the more likely that the UK misses out.”
He urged Brexit minister David Davis to urgently clarify whether Britain will seek to remain part of the historic EU open skies deal, which lets airlines fly from anywhere in the US to anywhere in the EU. Withdrawing from the deal would potentially mean airlines such as easyJet or Jet2 having to negotiate individual deals for each country they fly to.
O’Toole, who is on the board of Manchester Airports Group, which owns London Stansted, east Midlands and Bournemouth airports, described the government’s aviation policy to date as “some progress, but a lot more to do”.
He said: “Do we have integrated road, rail and airports? No. Do we have a taxation regime that supports and encourages airlines to bring capacity into the UK? No.
“Do we have an immigration service that while protecting the border, which is critical, actually makes it easy and appealing for people to visit the UK? I contend we don’t.
“Is it easy, cheap, quick and convenient to gain a visa to the UK? Again, it’s improved. I’m not saying there isn’t progress being made but there is a lot more that could be done.”