BIG city regions in the north are being tooled up with new devolved powers to help drive George Osborne's vision of a Northern Powerhouse.

But with a key rail project shelved, can devolution alone drive this Northern revolution?

In the final part of our five-part series on devolution, we examine whether a deal could help boost the economies of Bradford, Yorkshire and the North.

WITH a major devolution deal announced in Manchester, and others in the pipeline in West Yorkshire and Sheffield, George Osborne's vision of a Northern Powerhouse to rival London is edging closer.

In his first speech after the General Election, the Chancellor travelled to Manchester to explain how devolving more powers down to the "great cities of England" would help to drive forward this vision.

He said: "We all know that the old model of trying to run everything in our country from the centre of London is broken. It’s led to an unbalanced economy.

"It’s made people feel remote from the decisions that affect their lives. It’s not good for our prosperity or for our democracy.

"As I said when we first set out plans for a Northern Powerhouse, we need fundamental change - and this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver it."

But shortly after his speech, talk of a powerhouse soon became talk of a power cut - with the shelving of a key Transpennine rail electrification project.

And local leaders accept devolution deals are unlikely to come with lots of extra Government cash, in these straitened times.

So with this in mind, how can devolution help to drive forward the economies of Bradford, Yorkshire and the whole of the North?

Bradford Council leader, Councillor David Green, said: "Without devolution, the Northern Powerhouse is just rhetoric."

He said the most important change the Northern Powerhouse idea could bring about would be major improvements to the transport links of the north.

"If you could link Hull and Liverpool properly with a good railway, you would take a huge amount of freight off the roads for instance," he said.

"If you could improve the rail links across east to west and also up to Newcastle and others, you would start having that interconnected new northern economy."


Cllr Green said they now needed to create a way for the cities and regions of the north to link up and drive forward this vision.

He said: "As the devolution agenda gets delivered on a sub-regional level, we need something that makes sure we have a northern voice.

"It would be almost a council of the north, where 'whatever the devolved bits are' get together to look at those links across the north of England, so that we are achieving some of those wider strategic investments to benefit that wider economy.

"So I think that is key.

"But unfortunately, given some of the announcements we have seen recently, we have to be worried about whether there is a real commitment to it at a national level.

"And if there isn't, give the powers to us and let us get on with it."

Councillor Simon Cooke, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Bradford Council, said local leaders had to fight for Bradford to be given a central role in the creation of a Northern Powerhouse.

As an example, he said, he had read an article in a magazine saying the M62 corridor contained three of Britain's great cities - Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

He said: "As someone in Bradford, I thought, 'Just a minute! We are bigger than Liverpool, we are bigger than Manchester.'

"Part of this Northern Powerhouse is about linking Manchester and Leeds together. I get that. But we have got to keep banging the drum to say it has got to include Bradford in that link as well."