Theresa May's new strategy: growth everywhere, not just the north

Written by Tom Smithard on 2 August 2016 in Diary
Diary

The Prime Minister distances herself from predecessor, with talk of a northern powerhouse conspicuous by its absence.

Theresa May will put flesh on the bones of her new industrial strategy today as she looks to put clear water between herself and the regime of David Cameron and George Osborne.

Ministers will gather in Downing Street at 2pm for the first meeting of her economy & industrial strategy committee, with No10 briefing that the new committee will prioritise giving the whole of Britain a pay rise – not just the north of England.

May said that driving growth “up and down the country – from rural areas to our great cities” would be a priority, with a focus on “rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.

Conspicuous by its absence was talk of a northern powerhouse, beloved project of George Osborne, on a day where new figures show that Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have seen some of the biggest declines in home ownership in the last decade.

Instead May said: “I will govern for the whole United Kingdom, and we will look to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

The accompanying press notice reiterated that, with pointed references to “promoting a diversity of industrial sectors and ensuring the benefits of growth are shared across cities and regions up and down the country” rather than any mention of a northern powerhouse.

May will chair the meeting, alongside chancellor Philip Hammond, business secretary Greg Clark, work & pensions chief Damian Green, Jeremy Hunt from health, Karen Bradley from culture, Justine Greening from education, Michael Fallon from defence, Sajid Javid from communities, Andrea Leadsom from environment, Liam Fox from international trade and Chris Grayling from transport.

The breadth of the committee’s membership also contrasts with the previous regime, where most of the responsibility for industrial strategy lay in the lands of the treasury and its all-powerful chancellor.

Along with dealing with the fall-out from the decision to postpone the Hinkley Point reactor today, the committee will also likely grapple with a well-timed report from the Resolution Foundation which shows that home ownership has reached its lowest level for 30 years.

It now stands at 64%, the lowest level since 1986, down from a peak of 71% in 2003. Manchester has seen a bigger than average decline, down from 72% in 2003 to 58% now, while there have also been double-digit drops in Leeds and Sheffield.

Over the same period the number of private renters in Manchester have tripled – from 6% to 20%.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said more than 300,000 people had been helped into home ownership through government-backed schemes since 2010. A spokesman added:

“On top of this, latest figures show that for the first time in 20 years, first-time buyers have borrowed more than home movers. However, we know there is more to do, which is why we’ve set out the most ambitious vision for housing in a generation, including delivering hundreds of thousands of homes exclusively for first-time buyers.”

Picture by: Philip Toscano/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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