Former chancellor launches body to fan flames of his pet project

Former chancellor George Osborne has launched a Northern Powerhouse think tank - and signed up organisations including Shard builder Mace.

At a launch event in Manchester this morning, Osborne will say he is committed to keeping up the momentum on his pet project, despite leaving the government in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Osborne has said he will remain on the backbenches and seek re-election as an MP in 2020, unlike David Cameron, who stood down with immediate effect this week.

Osborne, who will chair the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, will say: “Chairing this new partnership will now be a major focus of my political energies. The Northern Powerhouse is here to stay.”

Mace is the sole construction firm to sign up so far. Barclays and Manchester Airport Group are among those also lending their support.

Theresa May’s government - which in its first few days seemed to indicate the Northern Powerhouse had lost support in favour of a “proper industrial strategy” - welcomed the launch.

When I launched the idea of Northern Powerhouse I said I would work tirelessly with anyone and everyone to make it a reality

George Osborne

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: “This government realises the huge untapped potential of our great northern towns and cities. That is why I warmly welcome the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.”

The Insitute will be privately-funded, independent and not-for-profit. It will be led by a business-led board, which will also feature some political representation.

It will work to support the region’s newly-elected ‘metro’ majors and their combined authorities in delivering skills, transport and housing improvements, as well as conduct specialist pan-Northern research.

Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said: “New transport infrastructure and connectivity are absolutely vital for boosting growth, developing skills, opening up opportunity and increasing wellbeing in the North of England.

“Mace has worked on major infrastructure and development schemes in the North for over 20 years, and we have seen first-hand the unrivalled passion, excitement and dedication of local people to turn the Northern Powerhouse from rhetoric to reality.”

Osborne added: “When I launched the idea of Northern Powerhouse I said I would work tirelessly with anyone and everyone to make it a reality.

“But even I have been taken aback by the huge support it has attracted across political parties, businesses and communities.

“In the space of just two years, we’ve created powerful new mayors, committed to huge new transport and science projects, and attracted investment from around the world.”