Powerhouse pledge good news for opposition leader

Coun Mike Winstanley (right) with secretary of state Sajid Javid
Coun Mike Winstanley (right) with secretary of state Sajid Javid

Wigan Council’s opposition leader has welcomed a minister’s pledge that the government is to stand by its promises to the North.

Secretary of state for local government and communities Sajid Javid was the keynote speaker at a regional Conservatives conference this weekend.

Coun Michael Winstanley said his words were “reassuring” amid speculation Prime Minister Theresa May plans to distance her new regime from devolution.

Last week borough MP and Labour candidate for GM mayor Andy Burnham demanded the government stands by its promises.

Coun Winstanley, leader of the Conservative Group on Wigan Council told the Evening Post: “Although I personally am not a fan of directly elected mayors, the fact of the matter is that it is happening and we need to press on with it and get the best possible deal for Greater Manchester.

“So to hear the secretary of state reaffirming commit ment to this was reassuring.

“It was good to hear all the speakers demonstrate a positive view as to how devolution can ensure that we improve skills, life chances, health and economic prosperity.

“This will ensure that as a region we can make the most of our potential. It was also clear that devolution needed to be about the whole of GM and not just Manchester city.

“It should also be remembered that it is a Conservative government passing this power from Westminster to where decisions can be taken more effectively.”

The conference was held this weekend at the Life Centre in Sale and featured Bolton West and Atherton MP Chris Green.

Mr Burnham, who is favourite to become GM first directly elected mayor, has said Ms May pulling the plug on the Northern Powerhouse would be “as big a betrayal as the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher pulled the plug on our industries”.

The Northern Powerhouse, championed by former Chancellor George Osborne, now out of the Cabinet, aimed to devolve powers and money from Whitehall to northern city regions in a bid to boost their economic performance.

Mr Burnham said: “Before the last election, you couldn’t escape Tory MPs touring the North and promising the earth. But now they are changing their tune.

“The vote in the EU referendum reflected a deep feeling of abandonment in many northern communities by the political elite.

“The right response to Brexit is to deepen the commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.”