Rishi Sunak At His Desk
Sunak will unveil his spending plan for 2021-22 on Wednesday

Treasury poised to reform spending in the North        

Sarah Townsend

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected this week to outline changes to the Treasury Green Book – the rules by which it allocates funding for large projects across the country – to tackle an engrained “anti-Northern bias”.

The reforms are set to be outlined in Wednesday’s Spending Review and are part of the Government’s levelling up agenda. They are intended to ensure that people “in all corners of the UK get their fair share of our future prosperity”, Sunak said.

At present, the Government’s decisions on where to deliver public infrastructure investment are made based on a definition of benefit compared to cost, which critics have long deemed too narrow.

The Treasury has now acknowledged that the methodology inherently favours investment in London and the South East because higher property prices in those parts of the country make for higher economic returns.

The proposed reforms will seek to amend the methodology so that it prioritises investments with the biggest impact in their region.

Jake Berry, former Northern Powerhouse minister and chair of the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, told the BBC he supported the move. “[The Green Book] was one of the most frustrating things I found when I was Northern Powerhouse minister…you would come against this calculation that always preferred Reading over Rossendale,” he said.

However, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnhan told the BBC he believed the Government has no “genuine intention” of levelling up the North and called for “much more substantial devolution” to shift power away from Whitehall.

Sunak is to unveil his spending review for the year 2021-2022 on Wednesday.




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Burnham is right. We need a Northern Assembly. Scotland, Wales and NI get one, yet the North West has a larger population and a bigger Economy that all of them.

By Bob

No thanks to the “Northern” assembly. What is primarily indifference and occasional prejudice of London-based civil servants towards our city would be nothing compared to being ruled over from Manchester. Just look at recent history. HS2, the report that crushed Liverpool Waters long before heritage got a sniff.

By Mike

HS2 will go to Liverpool. The failure to realise Liverpool Waters so far has got nothing whatsoever to do with HS2, to suggest otherwise is paranoia.

By Awayo

Of course HS2 will come to Liverpool, but we need to keep pressing for the highest level of integration with the main HS2 line from the south of Warrington, through Warrington centre, to Liverpool Lime Street/Liverpool Central. The GVA increase of the whole Mersey region will more than justify this. This ‘levelling up’ across the Mersey region will boost the whole North. Our city region with its port, its knowledge based economy, and 21st century sustainable industries will act as a powerhouse for the whole of the North.

By Red Squirrel

Paranoia about Manchester coming from Merseyside is really unhelpful and misguided. The problem we have had is that successive Westminster based Governments have neglected the needs of the whole of the North including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Tyneside etc. A Northern assembly with real power would be a good thing where it is based in the North is irrelevant.

By Anonymous

I agree with Mike but a North West assembly could be based in Lancaster which would stop another Scouse/Manc spat . The North is too big for one assembly. The North East/Yorkshire could have their own.

By Elephant

Lancaster is too far north. It would be better aligning with Barrow and South Cumbria. Preston should be the home of a North West assembly, avoiding any Manchester/Merseyside rivalry. It’s the neutral choice. I am really supportive of devolution for the North.

By Katie

We are just in the foothills. Think of the intellectual journey Scotland took to devolution, including a constructional convention under a non-political person. The last thing we need is to be offered some top-down assembly. As Northerners, we would probably want to be federal within the North. If we suffer tedious scouse-manc nonsense today, think about Yorkshire or the North East in the mix. Just look over to West Yorkshire, they are just about to get to the mayoral model, and there’s more tension there between Leeds and the rest than there is in GM with Manchester. I happen to think that a North West-level body would work, but only if bottom-up we agreed to make it work.

By Rich X

We are better sticking with city regions in the North West, like Germany does for Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. Devolution can be asymmetric. There is no reason why all regions should be the same size. Liverpool C.R. is bigger than Northern Ireland and GM nearly as big as Wales. Our city regions express our identities. Yorkshire is Yorkshire: it’s always seen itself as a virtual nation. The North West doesn’t see itself like that, it’s much more heterogenous. If we get constitutional reform for the UK and its islands (as a proper federal system) we could end up with much smaller regional entities like the Isle of Mann and the Channel Islands taking part in a regionally constituted upper house. LCR and GM will be more influential as separate entities working together. This will also better reflect our identities.

By Red Squirrel