THE FORMER Chancellor, George Osborne, will today (Thursday 3 November) hold the first in a series of Northern Powerhouse roundtable events in Manchester, despite a ticking off from the Government’s lobbying watchdog.
Chairing this Partnership is now the major focus of my political energies
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments – which monitors new roles taken up by former ministers once they leave office – said Osborne should have consulted them before setting up the think-tank.
ACBA rules dictate that Osborne – who left his role as Chancellor in July - cannot lobby the government for two years after leaving office.
A letter addressed to Mr Osborne from the committee said that although they had ‘no concerns about the appointment’, they expected him to ‘refrain from making use, directly or indirectly, of privileged access derived from your role as a Minister to influence Government policy’.
Despite the reprimand, the Tatton MP will today arrive in the city to chair the first meeting of the not-for-profit Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) – an independent body launched in September to ‘represent the voice of major business and civic leaders across the North’.
He said: “In the next two months, I'm going to set out, with the Partnership, to visit cities across the North - from Liverpool to Leeds, Newcastle to Sheffield and Manchester - to listen to businesses and local leaders. It's just a start of the engagement with communities right across the region.
“Chairing this Partnership is now the major focus of my political energies.”
The NPP’s mostly business-lead board includes representatives from key Northern companies such as Manchester Airports Group, Mace, Barclays, Associated British Ports, Bruntwood, Siemens, EY, HSBC and Addleshaw Goddard, as well as political representatives from across the North.
Juergen Maier, CEO, Siemens UK, said: “We are absolutely committed to the Northern Powerhouse because it represents a genuine growth opportunity for some of the most dynamic cities in the UK.”
Osborne first floated the concept of the Northern Powerhouse – an attempt to unite the cities the north, draw powers away from Whitehall and thus rebalance the nation’s economy - during a keynote speech in 2014.
Since the speech Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire have all agreed devolution deals with the Government, including the creation of elected mayors (Manchester will vote on 4 May 2017).
In April 2016 Greater Manchester became the first region in the country to take control of its annual £6bn health and social care budget away from Westminster.
By April 2017 the goverment has also agreed to devolve greater criminal justice powers to Manchester Town Hall.
However, some critics of devolution see it as a government ploy to pass on the responsbility of major budgets cuts to Labour-lead councils in the North.
“These roundtable events will enable the Northern Powerhouse Partnership to begin to develop a consensus across the North about the common ideas which we can work closely with national government on and improve the economy and quality of life for people in the North,” said Osborne.