Boris Johnson warned “keep your promises” to the North and close wealth divide

Boris Johnson must come good on vows to end the North-South divide in his plans for a recovery.

Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham said areas worst hit by austerity need a big boost to survive.

He added: “We’re about to find out if the Tories care about the North.”

Closing the North-South divide must be a priority as Britain rebuilds after coronavirus, business leaders and politicians have warned.

The North is even more exposed than the rest of the country to the economic fallout after 10 years of Tory cuts, says Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham.

It comes amid warnings that jobless figures could hit 1980s levels.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham says regions may not recover without massive investment

Writing in the Mirror, Mr Burnham warns: “We’re about to find out whether the Tories truly care about the North. We need help for people – now.”

The Prime Minister is set to speak on Tuesday about his plan to make the country “bounce forward” after the economy shrank by 20.4% in April, the largest monthly fall on record.

He is expected to set out plans to fast-track building projects such as hospitals, schools, housing, and road and rail infrastructure.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “There’s a Grand Canyon between his rhetoric and the reality.”

Politicians and business leaders in the North urged Mr Johnson to put the region at the centre of his recovery plan.

Boris Johnson must put his money where his mouth is

Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership called for a cash injection for
start-up businesses, more powers for metro mayors and for HS2 rail scheme to start building from the North. Boss Henri Murison said: “If the Government don’t step up, we will never recover from the recession.”

He added: “This week we need to see the whole Government become as serious as Chancellor Rishi Sunak is about the Northern Powerhouse.

“Closing the North-South divide must gather real pace now in the recovery and the whole Cabinet need to get with the programme.”

Newcastle’s Labour MP Catherine McKinnell said: “Backing the North is key to the recovery. The PM is promising to accelerate infrastructure, so if he is serious we expect shovels in the ground here in the North and not just more talk of ‘levelling up’. Alongside more capacity for our civic leaders to be able to invest locally, up to £5billion for areas like mine in the North East as well as others will bring real devolution to the North.”

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Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband fears “Thatcher levels of unemployment” if state help does not continue for the hospitality sector, and others which cannot fully reopen. He said: “You’ve got to have a bridge between the end of furlough and a proper job creation programme.”

Questioning why no budget would take place this summer, he said: “We’ve got potentially the worst economic recession in 300 years and the Treasury is deciding we’re not going to have a Budget.”

House of Commons Library analysis ordered by Labour indicated unemployment levels will tip past the peak of 3.3million in 1984 when Margaret Thatcher was in No10.

Labour boss Keir Starmer said: “Our recovery must be built on solid foundations. It has to work for the whole country and end the deep injustices across the country.”

A taskforce chaired by Chancellor Rishi Sunak will take charge of the fast-tracked infrastructure projects – dubbed “Project Speed”.

The group will be told there are “no excuses for delays” to building schemes after the country demonstrated it can move at pace during a national emergency with the Nightingale hospital projects. A Downing Street spokesman said: “Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.”

The PM said: “If Covid was a lightning flash, we’re about to have the thunderclap of the economic consequences. We’re going to be ready.”


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