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Osborne's Northern powerhouse vow
CHANCELLOR George Osborne has said he wants to create a long-term plan for improving economic growth in the North of England that has "eluded Governments for decades".
Speaking ahead of the publication of a £15bn plan to better connect northern cities, he promised to make a "big commitment" in his Autumn Statement to boosting economic activity in the area.
Mr Osborne called the One North report an "imaginative set of proposals" which could help rebalance the economy so that the UK is not "wholly dependent" on the "global city that is London".
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "It (the report) is in part a response to what I said a few months ago which is we need to bring our northern cities together. They are individually great but collectively they are weaker than the sum of their parts.
"We need to make sure we have got a northern powerhouse so that our economy in this country is not unbalanced, so we are not wholly dependent on the success of the global city that is London."
The Chancellor insisted that rather than looking at individual projects narrowly, he wanted to "capture a bigger vision".
He went on: "That is what I'm trying to do here. If you can bring these northern cities together with these individual transport schemes that collectively create this northern powerhouse, then you might achieve something really important in our country which is something which has eluded governments for many many decades of all colours...real improvement in economic activity in the North.
"If the North of England's GDP grew at the rate of the average GDP of the UK, we would add over £50bn to our economy to 2030. That is a massive benefit to the people living in the North of England, over £1,600 per person but is also of huge benefit to our country."
He accepted that governments of all political persuasions had traditionally only shown "sporadic" or "piecemeal" interest in the North but said he was "excited" at the consensus that was emerging.
Asked what assurances he could give that his commitment would not disappear after next year's election, he said he "passionately" believed a "real economic renaissance" could be achieved in the North.
He went on: "It's also about...making sure that we have something more than just London as a global city, but we have a northern global city or collection of cities."
The plan, which urges major improvements in transport infrastructure, is being presented to the Chancellor today. It has been compiled by cities including Newcastle, York, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.
It proposes a 125mph transpennine rail link aimed at cutting journey times between Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester and calls for improved access to ports, spending on motorways and new freight and logistics terminals.
Shadow Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood said Labour welcomed the report.
But she added: "Only Labour will properly back our city and county regions with ambitious plans to devolve more funding and economic power to them.
"Mr Osborne will be judged on his actions, not his words. He is failing to back the Heseltine report or Labour's plans to devolve billions of pounds of funding.
"Infrastructure output has fallen by over 12 per cent since 2010. And the Chancellor has refused to back our proposal for an independent infrastructure commission to end the dither and delay on long-term decisions."
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