The Northern Powerhouse is an oft-used term, even if it has taken a back seat since George Osborne has left government. The Northern Powerhouse website says that it is about "boosting the local economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture" and "devolving significant powers and budgets ... to ensure decisions in the North are made by the North".
Eyebrows were raised last week when it was announced, then, that a new government job overseeing regeneration in Teesside was to be based in London.
This is yet another kick in the teeth for an area that has had its fair share of kicks over the years. One of the latest was in 2015, when the Redcar steelworks closed; steel in China is cheaper. There are more complex explanations for this, but essentially the bottom line won.
The history of Redcar is entwined throughout the world, not just Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire and the North East coast where many of the steelworkers were from. Steel from Redcar was used in the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Wembley Stadium and Canary Wharf. Iconic structures on the skylines of their respective cities. Like Redcar now, on the beach just south of the River Tees.
In August, the Department for Communities and Local Government advertised for someone to work in London for the Tees Valley’s Mayoral Development Corporation, a job that “can include occasional trips to Tees Valley”. A major part of this role is to oversee the redevelopment of the former steelworks site at Redcar. But is based in London.
If ever a sign was needed from the government that they don't take regeneration in the North East as a priority, this was it. Even if this job is better suited to London, the message that is being sent by this job advert is 'London knows and does best'. At least this is how it has been read in the North East.
The connotations of something so small as one job, one tiny piece in a puzzle of massive redevelopment have had a far reaching impact. This was probably completely unexpected by the DCLG, but this should have been prepared for, and any reputational damage managed. And the disconnect between the London-centric government and the rest of the UK, particularly north of the Watford gap, is growing ever wider.