New Civil Service Jobs In Darlington And Leeds Announced In Budget Renews Calls For Transport Links
Politicians and leaders in the North of England have cautiously welcomed Rishi Sunak's announcement to relocate civil service work out of London but say it must be accompanied by transport investment.
Billed as a commitment to the government's "levelling up" agenda, Sunak announced in his Budget today that the Treasury will operate a new base in Darlington.
The location can be reached in just over two hours from London on the East Coast rail mainline, and is a 20 minute drive from Sunak's Richmond constituency.
His second announcement was that the creation of the new National Infrastructure Bank will be based in Leeds with an initial £12 billion in capital to invest in around £40 billion worth of projects.
A third policy was eight freeports, three of which be in the north - Liverpool City Region, Humberside and Teesside.
But there are still deep concerns about connectivity across the north of England, particularly east-west travel, poor rolling stock and long waiting times for services.
Labour's shadow secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson, told PoliticsHome the new jobs promised in Darlington today also need to be taken in the context that 7,000 civil service jobs have been scrapped in the region since 2010.Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3 as it is sometimes referred to, has proposed a route that would include a new rail line from Leeds to Manchester via Bradford, connect the HS2 line to Sheffield and then to Leeds. Upgrades from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull are also on the table.
Getting the estimated £39bn project off the ground has taken several years and currently the submission of its business case has been delayed until the government reveals its own regional rail plan.
Chief Executive of Transport for the North, Barry White, said bringing the Treasury to Darlington and setting up the UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds are very welcome measures and he hoped they would unlock funding for instrastucture.
He said: “Channelling funds at pace into essential capital projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail must now be a priority for these new ventures, helping to kick-start recovery and deliver a low-carbon North.
“We now await more detail and long-term commitment to the North’s preferred rail network in the Integrated Rail Plan.”
Henri Murrison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said only better transport will help make the most of the investment the Chancellor's policies are intended to bring.
He said: "We now need better transport infrastructure and improved rail connectivity to unlock the maximum economic impact from this investment, which we hope to see in the Integrated Rail Plan later this spring."Labour MP Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, also raised transport in the House of Commons today after the Chancellor's speech saying she was disappointed not to see commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in this budget.
"The Government must urgently recommit to the NPR project – including a new line between Leeds and Manchester with a stop in Bradford – and set out a clear timeline for delivery," Cummins said.
"Yet another example of this Government talking the talk but failing to walk the walk."
Tom Lees, Director of the Northern Policy Foundation, which has argued for civil service jobs to move out of London, particularly senior policy roles, said for the northern campus of the Treasury to be a success it needed to also include the transfer of senior leadership, and be "crystal clear" on the purpose of the move.
Sunak said elements of the business department, international trade and housing departments would all work from the new Darlington campus and was part of a new "economic geography".
However Phillipson, whose Houghton and Sunderland South seat is a 30 minutes from Darlington, said the proposals to move civil service jobs is not a "long term plan" to fix the economy.
The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "We all want to see more jobs in the north east, but we need to remember that 7,000 civil service jobs have been scrapped in the north east alone, since 2010.
"A new Treausry North in Darlington will create 700, so this is no substitute for a long-term plan to rebalance out economy and deliver jobs to every part of the country."