Big money buys train ticket for all stations north of Watford
Legal & General's promised investment signals lift off for economic regeneration in the north of England, particularly for the cities served by the Northern Hub project.
There was something slightly pathetic about Rory Stewart MP (Conservative, Penrith and the Border, Majority 11,241) when he complained about how powerless MPs are.
“Anybody running a small pizza business has more power than me” said Stewart, who has world wide experience on a number of high profile stages but has clearly never run a fast food outlet.
The Leader has his quote on file under the heading 'Colourful Rubbish'.
Nevertheless, there is a serious point underlying Stewart’s bleating. Put simply, it doesn’t really matter which policies politicians espouse. If the money doesn’t follow they may as well talk to themselves.
A whole raft of politicians both national and local have agreed that the UK would be better off all round if a comprehensive selection of the tools of power and a generous chunk of the budgets that go with them were transferred from Westminster and Whitehall to the regions and cities north of Watford.
Now (better late than never) work has begun on the Northern Hub project - a £600 million programme to upgrade train services linking the great economic powerhouse cities scattered across the north of England including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
About time too, we say. The Leader's last two attempts to get to Liverpool from Birmingham (once to do a bit of business and once to film an interview with a government minister) both ended in expensive failure due to appalling service disasters on the railway.
In February, the Centre For Cities wrote to the Chancellor asking for a few changes to the way we spend money in Whitehall.
The organisation wants to increase the size of the Single Local Growth Fund to £5 billion a year from 2015, and they want to boost high-skilled jobs by creating "a new City Centre Growth Fund ".
They also want to create single property boards at city level and (sit down if you are not already doing so) initiate a pilot scheme whereby cities could issue their own work Visas to skilled foreign workers.
The last idea is right on target but will probably lead to an entire grand opera of high-pitched screaming in Whitehall. Perhaps the clever old Centre for Cities is offering that one as a sacrificial node in order to win the other three.
Even though the £600 million committed to the Northern Hub is most welcome and the budget may well deliver more and better for the northern city-regions, there has been a depressing feeling that the really big win, the event that would kick-start the revolution, was missing.
The bombshell duly arrived at about 7:20 on Thursday morning.
Speaking on the Today programme (a slightly breathless breakfast-time current affairs programme on BBC Radio 4) Nigel Wilson, Group Chief Executive of Legal and General (an insurance company with something like a billion pounds to invest) revealed that his company is not much interested in HS2 (which will link London to a few northern cities), but is interested in the Northern Hub Project.
He also said that the Legal and General cash mountain should not be spent in the Great Wen (which, he said, was doing fine without it) but rather invested in big infrastructure projects in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and other points north.
Hurrah for Legal and General. Now our friends in the north (and Rory Stewart) will feel the levers of power begin to tremble under their hands like Pizza parlour managers who have won the lottery without being aware that they had bought a ticket.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.
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