THERE is still a 'huge hole' in the Government's levelling up plans, it was today claimed, despite the Chancellor's £150bn spending bonanza in today's Budget.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said uncertainty surrounding HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail "will continue to undermine business confidence and put a dampener on attracting investment to the north of England", despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledging £310m for a range of transport projects in his pre-Budget leaks.

Elsewhere, Conservative MPs in the North East said Mr Sunak's Budget will "make a real difference to people in the North East, helping working families with the cost of living".

But Labour politicians in the region said it "did nothing to help working people struggling with the cost of living crisis made in Downing Street".

Mr Murison said: “Funding for local transport schemes will be a huge boost for cities and their surrounding regions, from Liverpool right across to the Tees Valley.

“There is still a huge hole in the government’s plans for levelling up with no clear commitment to either HS2 or a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line through Bradford in today’s speech. Until the IRP is published, uncertainty will continue to undermine business confidence and put a dampener on attracting investment to the north of England.”

“Despite Northern Powerhouse securing more than half a billion, the scale of the levelling up fund means it’ll have a limited productivity impact, as each bid is only large enough in scale to address specific local challenges – and will not go far enough in tackling the north-south divide.”

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison said: “After the Chancellor’s Budget this afternoon, I am so excited that, after my extensive lobbying, Bishop Auckland is set to receive £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund.

“This will see the vital repairs finally made to the Whorlton Bridge, improvement works completed at Locomotion in Shildon, and after 70 years of campaigning, funding finally secured for the Toft Hill Bypass.

“I have been working non-stop to secure a fairer share of funding for our constituency. Already, after lots of incessant lobbying, I have helped deliver over £70m of Government investment right here in our communities. But I won’t stop now.”

Richard Holden, North West Durham MP said: “Despite the unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, this Conservative Government is getting on with the job and delivering on the priorities of the British people. This Budget will make a real difference to people in the North East, helping working families with the cost of living, improving transport connections, regenerating communities and improving health outcomes.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We welcome the announcement of £20 million investment into our infrastructure here in County Durham. As part of our ambitious plans to regenerate the county’s towns and villages and ensure County Durham remains a fantastic place to live, work and visit, it is so important that rural communities feel well connected to improve their quality of life. We are really pleased that this funding is going to support that.

“It will increase opportunities for people to connect to their neighbouring towns and villages, improving access to employment, education and leisure offers. It will also help us to encourage people to make active choices in the way they travel through the development of walking and cycling routes.”

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham said: “We’ve seen a Budget that has given tax cuts to bankers, a tax cut on flights and tax cuts on champagne, whilst working people see their taxes rise at the same time as food, fuel and other goods rocket in price.

“And yet the Chancellor seeks our congratulations for the £2 billion to help some of the country’s poorest people – just weeks after taking £6 billion out of their pockets.

“There has also been much fanfare about money for the Tees Valley – but the area’s share for transport is a tiny fraction of the total budget and will fail to provide the kind of integrated transport system we need. Sadly, it still remains the case that it is easier for many people to get a flight to Spain than a bus home from work after 6pm.

“And as for the so-called levelling up, it is deeply disappointing that the Billingham bid for “Levelling Up” money was unsuccessful, yet the bid for the much more affluent area of Yarm and Eaglescliffe has been awarded funding. The Tories like to talk a good game on levelling up, but this is yet more proof that it is an empty slogan.”