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Government vows to back the Midlands and the North

Words: Laura Edgar

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reaffirmed his pledge to devolve further powers to the north of England, while local government secretary Robert Jenrick has made a similar commitment to the Midlands.

Speaking in South Yorkshire on Friday, the prime minister said he remains committed to delivering a devolution deal for the Sheffield City Region, as well as beginning negotiations with Leeds and West Yorkshire on a deal.

“We are committed to getting the Sheffield City Region done – and I also want to open up negotiations with Leeds and West Yorkshire so we can make a mayor work there too, whatever the nature of any longer-term arrangements in Yorkshire,” he said.

Johnson also said that he wants to build on the “fantastic job” so many mayors are already doing and “level up” their powers.

The government will also create a new Northern Powerhouse growth body to “drive forward” the region’s economy and give it the powers to bring together major organisations working in the region. A chair will be appointed to lead the body and to work with the minister for the Northern Powerhouse.

“It is time that we gave more people a say over the places where they live, and it is time that we gave you the proper ability to run things your way.

“We are going to maximise the power of the North. And we are going to make sure that it is people here who are in control over the things that matter to them.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The new body to drive economic growth will put us on the world stage and should be the one to drive and deliver the Northern Powerhouse Industrial Strategy and must be driven by leaders in the North. We look forward to working with the prime minister with northern business leaders to ensure it plays a constructive role in the work of taking powers and resources out of their control by Whitehall.”

At Bombardier’s rail engineering research and development facility in Derby, Jenrick committed the government to bringing forward a new Midlands Engine Strategy this autumn.

He said it would be a roadmap for the Midlands Engine written in partnership with the region. It is expected to set out how the Midlands can seize the “bright opportunities” ahead with investment in infrastructure, skills, technology and culture.

Jenrick also pledged to build on the work of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and pursue new devolution deals across the whole of the Midlands to make sure that all areas receive the powers, investment and resources they need to “flourish”.

“We’re building on Mayor Andy Street’s huge success in the West Midlands by committing today to roll out more devolution. Taking back control doesn’t just apply to Westminster regaining sovereignty from the EU. It means cities and counties becoming more self-governing.

“We are going to give greater powers to mayors, council leaders and communities and, in doing so, we will ensure that every part of the Midlands sees the benefits of all the prosperity and opportunity we have in the country.

“This builds on the support we have provided for the Midlands Engine including £1.9 billion in Local Growth Fund investment and announcing the 30 towns from across the Midlands who will be among the first to develop multimillion-pound town deals through our £3.6 billion Towns Fund.”