How the Budget transforms the fortunes of the North

Budget for the North: A Treasury outpost in Darlington, freeports in Liverpool, Teesside and Humber and an infrastructure bank in Leeds

A raft of measures was announced in yesterday’s Budget to transform the fortunes of the North.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer said Britain needs a ‘different economic geography’ to recover after the pandemic and to make the most of Brexit opportunities.

Rishi Sunak unveiled measures for Teesside, which has traditionally lagged behind the rest of England in terms of economic success and has pockets of hardship and deprivation.

The Tees Transporter Bridge connecting Middlesbrough to Port Clarence. The Chancellor said Britain needs a ‘different economic geography’ to recover after the pandemic 

A new ‘Treasury North’ campus will be set up in Darlington, creating 750 top jobs. 

The choice of the Tees Valley town – beating rival bids from Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle – will be a major boost for the area, which has struggled economically after losing heavy industry in the 1980s.

The Mail campaigned for the Treasury North to be on Teesside, famed for its Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough. 

The area has also been chosen as one of eight new freeports. These zones will benefit from simpler planning, funding to improve transport links, cheaper tariffs and lower taxes.

The other northern freeports will be Humber and Liverpool. East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Plymouth, Solent and Thames make up the rest. 

Teesside’s freeport will cover 4,500 acres and include the recently reopened airport, the former Redcar steelworks site and the ports of Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.

It is expected to create more than 18,000 jobs in five years, to boost the local economy by £3.2billion and attract £1.4billion of investment.

Separately, a National Infrastructure Bank is being set up in Leeds, with initial capital of up to £12billion to invest in projects to fire up the green revolution.

The Chancellor said Teesside was known for its past success in heavy industries, and added: ‘Now, when I look to the future I see old industrial sites being used to capture and store carbon; vaccines being manufactured; offshore wind turbines creating clean energy for the rest of the country.

Top table: Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen described Rishi Sunak as 'a true chancellor of the North'

Top table: Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen described Rishi Sunak as ‘a true chancellor of the North’

‘All located within a freeport with the Treasury just down the road and the UK Infrastructure Bank only an hour away.’ Sunak, whose constituency is close by in Richmond, North Yorkshire, crafted his Budget with an eye to former Labour voters who switched to the Tories at the election. He is keen to secure their loyalty with an economic revival.

If he does, he will succeed where Labour failed, despite Tony Blair and the late Mo Mowlam having north-east constituencies

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, said it proved the area was ‘at the top table of Government’, adding: ‘For too long areas like Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have been left behind and local people could be forgiven for thinking that we were often an afterthought. That ends today. Our voice was heard.

‘This shows that Rishi is a true chancellor of the North. He knew we couldn’t continue to allow vital decisions affecting our area to be made by bureaucrats in London.’

Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said: ‘It’s really positive that the Government has decided to bring Treasury North to our area.’

The announcement that Leeds will house the infrastructure bank was welcomed. Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: ‘Locating this powerful national institution in our region will be a real catalyst for change and a major driver of our post-pandemic recovery.’ 

The Teesside towns of Middlesbrough and Thornaby will get a combined £46million to make improvements.

Douglas McWilliams of the Centre for Economic and Business Research applauded the Treasury move north.

He said: ‘It is just one of many pro-northern announcements. The fuel duty freeze benefits the North proportionately twice as much as the South.

‘There is £4.2billion of urban transport planned mainly for northern cities, funds for the upgrading of the A66 and three of the freeports are in the North.

‘Together, these should provide a significant boost.’