I WAS very impressed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s speech last week. The North really needs proper investment. I am always struck on my occasional visits south how the wealth seems to ooze from the houses, shops and cars – in the Bishop Auckland area we have seven foodbanks, with many more food parcel outlets.

We know in Bishop Auckland how our poor infrastructure hampers our economic well-being.

We also know we have the skills and energy which will help our region flourish, so the idea of giving the North power over how money is spent locally is very welcome. McDonnell is proposing that we spend £25bn a year over the next ten years through a “Green Transformation Fund” upgrading our energy, and transport systems.

He also proposed spending £30bn a year over the next five years rebuilding the social fabric (schools, hospitals, care homes, council houses) that nine years of Tory austerity has torn apart.

Most excitingly, he promises to empower people in the North-East to make the decisions on priorities through investment boards comprising our elected councillors, trades unionists and local business. This won’t be regional mayors with good intentions but no resources – this will be powerful regional institutions that can transform the prospects of our people.

He is really only proposing that we take public investment back to pre-2010 and pre-austerity levels, but adding real regional control to ensure the money is not all spent in the south-east.

His plans are a massive opportunity for our region. A once in a lifetime opportunity to upgrade our infrastructure for good, because we have no choice.

Frank Roche, Barnard Castle