RUTH SUNDERLAND: Setting up Treasury North on Teesside would be a huge show of faith – it would be an investment that will deliver real returns
- Rishi Sunak sees himself as a Northern Chancellor, but doesn’t live up to the old Andy Capp stereotype
- His plan to overturn London’s economic balance of power is significant
Rishi Sunak, who represents Richmond, a prosperous Yorkshire constituency, considers himself a Northern Chancellor.
The gentle Sunak doesn’t live up to the old Andy Capp stereotype, but he has set up his booth to inject real energy into the project of giving backward and backward cities a new economic life.
His plan to overturn London’s economic balance of power is significant.
Suave: Rishi Sunak considers himself a Northern Chancellor, but doesn’t live up to the old Andy Capp stereotype
He has pledged to establish a new Treasury North on a campus that will eventually house 22,000 officials. Sunak is also in the process of setting up a new National Infrastructure Bank, which will, not yet decided, be located somewhere in the north of England.
Teesside would be a fantastic location for both. I say that not only because it is my home – although that, frankly, plays a role – but also because it is the location that will have maximum impact.
And while the institutions would benefit Teesside, an investment in the region would bring real dividends to the entire country. The easy option would be Manchester. But to the frustration of those living everywhere else, the inability to understand that Manchester is not the only place that matters north of the Watford Gap.
The creation of the new northern economic center in Middlesbrough would show some imagination and send a signal that the government understands that the north is diverse. Civil servants will be able to see up close the challenges people face in cities, outside of major urban centers. They will also see the vast pool of Northern talent and potential that is being overlooked.
Why Teesside in particular, unlike other places outside of Manchester? Because the region, once a hub of heavy industry, is a testing ground for leveling. From the ashes of the old steel and chemicals, it will be at the epicenter of the new green industrial revolution.
It is in the running for the first freeport to be set up on the River Tees. That could create 32,000 jobs and add £ 2 billion to the local economy. The old steel mill in Redcar is now home to Teesworks, a multi-billion-pound carbon capture and storage project.
This massive site could be transformed just as successfully as the fallow land that was London’s harbor area in the early 1980s.
One of New Labor’s great failures was that, despite many of the top figures being Northeast MPs, they failed to bring prosperity to the region. This was a missed opportunity, in economic conditions far more favorable than in Covid’s era.
The difference now is that the government’s fortunes depend on its ‘red wall’ MPs, so it needs to take the leveling agenda seriously and deliver on it.
Large parts of the north fear they will be placed in high Covid layers and there is a risk that the economic damage done by the virus, and the response to it, will hit weaker areas harder. Teesside is the perfect place to show how much can be achieved. With a branch of the Treasury and the National Infrastructure Bank, there would be a turbulent declaration of intent.
For the record, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who uses a network of regional agents to great effect, should also open an office for the Old Lady there.
Establishing a shop on Teesside would be an enormous show of faith. Not only that, it would be an investment that will deliver real returns for the entire country