THE Government’s flagship scheme to bring investment to the North has been described as a “damp squib” by a North-East MP, but one of the region’s Mayors said it has been a “success”.

Redcar MP Anna Turley said the promise of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse has “fallen short”, whilst Middlesbrough MP and shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the legacy of the past five years was a “chronic lack of investment”.

But Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the Northern Powerhouse, first launched in 2014, had provided the region with “devolved powers and cash we need to get our economy back on track”.

The Northern Echo:

Ms Turley said: “The Northern Powerhouse was launched with great fanfare and as a North East MP, I was pleased to hear the government admitting that the North wasn’t getting it’s fair share of investment. I hoped it might be a turning point - a breakaway from the old system of expecting the success of London and the City to lift up the rest of the country, when in reality too much of that wealth was hoarded in the South. But five years on it’s clear to see the concept has been a damp squib, achieving more as a political campaign than delivering real power to our region.

"Some progress has undoubtedly been made. Devolution through metro mayors has brought some powers and funding closer to Northern communities. On Teesside we have proven that when we are given the power and control we can do great things, like supporting our people to retrain through the SSI Taskforce and developing a local industrial masterplan for the South Tees Development Corporation. We have big ambitions for carbon capture, hydrogen power, and other clean industry.

The Northern Echo:

"But the reality is that too often we are reliant on going cap in hand to government to bid for small pots of funding. We still have pacer trains running on yet to be electrified lines, despite the promise of better and whilst billions are poured into London’s Crossrail. Many communities are no longer served by bus routes as subsidies have been slashed.

“According to analysis by IPPR, £6.3bn of public spending has been taken from the north under austerity whilst the south has gained £3.2bn. This austerity has seen the public sector workforce in the North East fall by almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the crisis at British Steel threatens to put another great British industry, deeply rooted in the North, out of action because Whitehall has failed to create the level playing field it needs.

"We have great potential in the north, with fantastic, resilient people who have great skills and a determination to deliver a new industrial renaissance for our region. But the promise of the Northern Powerhouse has fallen short. If it’s to really mean something, for starters we need our £6bn back. Devolution needs to be supercharged so that decisions on everything from transport investment to skills development are made by and for the North. If things don’t change and quickly, the Northern Powerhouse will only ever be a good soundbite.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Houchen said: “The Northern Powerhouse has been a success, especially in areas with Metro Mayors here in the Tees Valley. We’ve been given the devolved powers and cash we need to get our economy back on track.

“The beauty of devolution is that it avoids a one-size-fits-all approach. Within the Northern Powerhouse, each Mayor can shout about their region, play to its strengths and maximise their own opportunities. For example, it’s given us significant power and cash to do things like buy our airport and bring it back into public hands, which feeds into our transport priorities and maximises offers such as the South Tees Development Corporation.

“Whatever the future holds for the Northern Powerhouse, further devolution must be at the heart of it. I’ve long pushed for more powers and funding from Whitehall, including the devolution of our part of the post-Brexit Shared Prosperity Fund to the Tees Valley. At the end of the day, there is no point bring back powers from Brussels, or bringing them North from London, just to replace them with distant cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr McDonald said: “The legacy of the past five years is a chronic lack of investment and damaging austerity that has hit the North hardest. Powers have remained in Westminster, but cuts have been devolved. The North receives less than half the per head transport investment as London.

“The chaos following last year’s rail timetabling chaos was a national embarrassment that demonstrated the extend of neglect of transport in the North. This North-South divide in investment and powers must end.

“Labour will bring the railways into public ownership, so we can deliver reliable services and deliver real powers to the North; and we will reverse the cuts to bus routes, encourage councils to run bus services, and, where they do, offer free bus travel for under-25s.

“Labour would reinstate rail electrification that was scrapped by the Tories and commit at least £10bn to deliver a Crossrail for the North to connect Northern economies. There is tremendous potential across the region, but our successes have been despite the Government, not because of it.

“Delivering first class transport infrastructure to the North is key to unlocking this potential, and this must mean delivering investment and powers, not just slogans.”

The Northern Echo:

Speaking previously, Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said: "We are punching below our weight, but at the same time we have much to be proud about. We could do better if we had the right infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure. Rail and road connections need to be improved. We need a commitment from government to invest in the North East.

"Although the HS2’s route may not reach Newcastle it’s benefits could still be strongly felt in the region. Hitachi, in my constituency, is bidding jointly with Bombardier in Derby to build the rolling stock.

"If they are successful the new high speed trains will be built in our region generating jobs for people in Newton Aycliffe and investment. That would be great news and is one of the reasons for HS2 to go ahead."