Since Parliament has gone into recess, hardly a day has passed without a significant policy announcement by ministers. They’ve ranged from banning petrol driven cars by 2040, to transport announcements that have the potential to drain the Northern Powerhouse (NP) of any meaning.
With MPs, away from Westminster and unable to call the government immediately to account, elected mayors and council leaders across the North have had to promise a summit in late August. Let’s hope that the current angry mood will not have turned to dull resignation.
The betrayal by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is breath-taking. He has rowed back on plans for new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station, said “bi-mode” trains will do on the Manchester-Leeds line rather than full electrification and downgraded rail schemes in Cumbria. At the same time the government announced their support for a £30bn Crossrail 2 project in London.
A few weeks ago, I challenged the chair of Transport for the North (TFN) John Cridland at a major conference on transport about the Treasury rules that will always mean that London schemes meet investment criteria because of the millions of commuters compared to the needs of the North. Cridland remained optimistic and TFN were urged by Manchester City Region mayor Andy Burnham to persuade the government to look at other criteria for justifying transport spending like economic return.
I said in a blog a few weeks ago that the acid test of the government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse would be whether Crossrail 2 or Trans Pennine investment would come first. Well now we know.
The whole Northern Powerhouse project is in serious trouble. Good connectivity between northern cities is the bedrock of the whole scheme. The new NP Minister, Rossendale MP Jake Berry is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile Business Secretary Greg Clarke made his industrial strategy speech on investment in battery power in Birmingham this week. Ever since Theresa May came to power there has been a pivot from the North to the Midlands.
Let’s hope the summit backed by all the northern cities at the end of next month gets some answers from ministers.
EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL BLOW FOR BIZ.
It is always a shame when people abuse employment rights. But that was why the Coalition government brought in fees to deter vexatious employees and chancers who were taking employers to tribunals in droves. In 2012/13 191,541 cases were lodged before fees were levied. The latest figure is 88,000 which is high enough and by the way, fees were often reimbursed if the grievance was genuine.
Small businesses are set to be hardest hit as claims from aggrieved employees soar again. With Brexit uncertainty as well, it is not a good time to be in business.
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