George Osborne to chair Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Former chancellor could lobby old department on behalf of new government-backed body that will press for devolution

George Osborne will continue his argument for devolution to Manchester and the surrounding area as he takes up a new job as chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

The new body, whose creation has been backed by the government, will bring together business and local politicians to commission research, share ideas, and lobby Whitehall to press ahead with devolution.

Osborne would have expected to spend the coming weeks closeted in the Treasury, drawing up his autumn statement, but he was sacked by Theresa May when she became prime minister in the wake of the Brexit vote. He could instead find himself lobbying his old department on behalf of Manchester.

He said the new role would be a key focus for him in the years ahead. “There’s a real excitement now in the north about what we can achieve if we work together. I don’t want us to lose that. That’s why I’m so pleased major businesses, civic leaders and others have worked with me to create this new northern powerhouse partnership. I’m also glad that the government has given its support.

“Chairing this new partnership will now be a major focus of my political energies. The northern powerhouse is here to stay.”

With his salary cut from a minister’s £134,500 a year to an MP’s £74,962 overnight, Osborne had already signed up as an after-dinner speaker with a US agency.

It had been suggested that May was lukewarm about the northern powerhouse – one of a series of devolution deals to city regions involving powerful new metropolitan mayors who have been signed by the government in the past two years under a plan first mooted by Osborne in 2014.

But she used the phrase in an article in the Yorkshire Post last month, saying it was central to her plans for a new industrial strategy for Britain.

Writing in the Sun, Osborne said: “It is great that Theresa May has recently recommitted her government to the vision we set out. But if we’re going to make it happen we can’t just expect Whitehall to do it all. It has to be a team effort.”

He said that the new northern powerhouse partnership would “keep asking questions about what more we can do to help the North succeed and take a greater role in deciding its own future”.

Osborne has decided not to follow his close friend, David Cameron, who announced earlier this week that he would step down from the House of Commons, after resigning the premiership. Osborne will remain a backbench MP supporting causes he believes in – though his Tatton seat is due to disappear as part of proposed boundary changes to be implemented by 2020.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary and a political ally of Osborne, said: “This government realises the huge untapped potential of our great northern towns and cities. That is why I warmly welcome the launch of the northern powerhouse partnership.

“I hope it will become an important part of the debate and help us to do all we can to further boost jobs, growth and opportunities in the north of England.”


Heather Stewart Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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