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.