This week saw the launch of One North, a proposal from northern towns and cities which would see £15bn spent on vital transport schemes across the north of England.
As we all know, the national economy is currently far too focused on London and the South East with the result that people and businesses in the north have suffered. One North shows that by investing in better road and rail links, moving people and goods more quickly and easily, we will be able to bring new jobs and prosperity to the region.
This government has made a great deal of its plan to create a ‘northern powerhouse’. I welcome that commitment, made this week by George Osborne, but we do need to see the colour of the Chancellor’s money.
After all it was this government which put a stop to The Northern Way, Labour’s plan to support the northern economy, and actions speak louder than words.
It’s worth remembering that at the moment London and the South East receives far more money on transport projects than the rest of the UK put together, making the situation worse not better.
The £15bn cost of One North may seem like a lot of money but it’s actually the same amount being spent on Crossrail, a single project to put a new railway line through London. Crossrail’s gleaming new Canary Wharf station alone, complete with rooftop garden, has cost a staggering £500m. There are already plans for Crossrail 2.
So, how much more money does London and the South East receive? According to a report published last year by the Institute for Public Policy Research, £2596 is being spent per person in London on transport projects that include public funding. In the South East it is £714 per person, whilst in Yorkshire the figure is just £160 per person and in the North East it is a paltry £5 per person. That’s right, £5. It isn’t a typo.
The odds are currently stacked against us and that situation must change. In my opinion the government needs to take a twin track approach. We have successfully argued for Robin Hood Airport to be included in One North but the project is not a quick fix.
We won’t see the benefits of those plans for years and it will not help the local economy in the short term. That’s why we also need to see immediate investment and a real commitment from this government.
A good start would be to locate projects such as the national High Speed Rail College in the north of England. Doncaster’s bid for the college is high quality and the massive level of support for it is second to none.
Locating the college here could have a transformative effect on the local economy. It would also be one way the government could demonstrate that it is serious about helping people in the north. So come on George. Show us that you really mean what you say.
* Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster.