We were sceptical then, and we are even more sceptical now. Five years on from the launch of the Northern Powerhouse initiative, we urge the Government to commit properly to investing in the North-East.

BACK in June 2014, when George Osborne made his first speech about a big idea he was calling the Northern Powerhouse we were distinctly underwhelmed, mainly because the North-East seemed very overlooked by then-Chancellor in the context of the entire north of England.

We were pleased that the economic potential of the north was high on the political agenda – whether it was just a vote gathering mission or not – but we voiced fears that the focus would be too heavily placed on the likes of Leeds and Manchester.

Our editorial that day said: “His plans do not include the likes of Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Durham, Newcastle or Darlington. The Northern Echo shares Mr Osborne’s concern that too much of the nation’s wealth and economic power is concentrated in London and the South-East.

“Improving transport links in the north is a good way to rebalance the economy following savage spending cuts. But a failure to include the region that gave birth to the railways undermines the Government’s claim that it would support the hardest-hit areas.

“There was no detail about how Mr Osborne’s plans would be funded, and he doesn’t have timescales for when new super-fast rail lines would start.”

We would love to have been proved wrong, but five years down the line, there are few signs that for the North-East, the Northern Powerhouse is anything other than a convenient slogan.

While all the political focus is on Brexit, desperately needed improvements to our transport infrastructure are decades away, if even in the pipeline at all.

HS2 will bring some improvements, and if Hitachi wins the contract to build the first phase of the trains, that will be a huge boost to the firm’s Newton Aycliffe plant.

But the line will stop at Leeds, and the Government is yet to commit to investing in Northern Powerhouse Rail, the £39bn east-west scheme linking with HS2, which has been described as a potential economic game-changer for the north.

The rattling, hated Pacer trains are only just now being phased out, and while devolution deals have seen elected mayors introduced and powers devolved, this was not necessarily a Northern Powerhouse initiative. The Tees Valley mayor, for example, was one of six announced in the first tranche, which included the West Midlands, among others.

Some funding is coming our way for improvements to Middlesbrough and Darlington railway stations, so the new HS2 trains can be accommodated, and it looks like the full dualling of the A66 across the Pennines is finally progressing, with a consultation exercise launched this summer.

We did have the Great Exhibition of The North last summer, although its benefits were largely confined to Tyneside, and exactly what long-term legacy it leaves behind is highly debatable.

There have been changes in the way education budgets are allocated, so decision-making can be made more locally, and we recognise these very welcome developments.

HOWEVER it’s hard to escape the feeling that we are still the poor relation. According to Government figures analysed by think tank IPPR North, since the Northern Powerhouse agenda was introduced, transport spending per person has gone up twice as much as London as in the North.

The capital has seen a £326 per person increase in public spending, but the North has seen an increase less than half the size – just £146. Transport spending per person remains approximately twice as high in London as in the North – as it has for the past decade.

Spending fell in Yorkshire and the Humber by £18 per person. It did rise in the North East – by just £2 per person.

THAT said, this is not about pitting north versus south, or even east versus west for that matter. It is about the massive economic potential of the North-East being unlocked for the benefit of the whole country, by the Government providing the region with the infrastructure we need to grow.

Earlier this month, a year after Northern Rail’s new timetable threw services into chaos, sparking calls for action, we again joined forces with other northern publishers to launch the Power Up the North campaign.

The collaboration aims to ensure the Conservative leadership candidates put the North at the top of their policy agenda by creating a bespoke industrial strategy, allocating further devolved funding and powers, and making Northern Powerhouse Rail a national priority.

If the Northern Powerhouse truly had lived up to its billing, this type of campaign would not be necessary. It would not need newspapers to fight for what the millions of residents and thousands of businesses were promised.

The Government must stop procrastinating and get on with delivering for the whole north – including the North-East – putting real money where its mouth is. Another five years must not be allowed to pass before real changes are made.