Lancashire politicians and business chiefs have been given a boost by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
He announced an extra £550m for Local Enterprise Partnerships to help the drive to create jobs, homes and improve transport links.
That was on top of a £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund to help provide 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas, £1.4bn to deliver 40,000 extra affordable homes, and millions spent on roads schemes and the modernisation of signalling on Britain’s railways.
The Chancellor said the Government was committed to the Northern Powerhouse and talks were ongoing with cities over devolution and elected mayors. Lancashire has already signed up to be a Northern Powerhouse partner.
It has agreed to setting up a combined authority and is looking towards having an elected mayor in 2019.
That will enable the county to be be granted devolved powers under the Powerhouse agreement.
Enterprise zones are being set up in areas like Samlesbury, Warton and Blackpool under the supervision of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and any extra cash would be a welcome surprise.
Today, Fylde MP Mark Menzies, whose constituency includes BAE Systems’ Warton site, said: “I am delighted to see the Government still pressing ahead with its plans for the Northern Powerhouse.
“The hundreds of millions of pounds announced in the Autumn Statement for Local Enterprise Partnerships is earmarked for infrastructure and that can only be good for business, good for jobs, and good for the Fylde.”
He added: “The £1.4bn to build 40,000 affordable properties will be a huge help tackling the need for homes, and combined with the announcement of £2.3bn infrastructure fund for areas where homes are needed, will be a further, welcome boost to the economy.”
Mike Perls, North West chairman of the Institute of Directors, said: “We welcome today’s Autumn Statement which recommits to the Northern Powerhouse initiative and sends a clear signal about the importance of the North as an intrinsic part of the Government’s productivity and industrial strategy.
“Investment in the region’s connectivity is key, both physically with transport and virtually with technology.
“As a key pillar in the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse, it was right to confirm investment into the North’s infrastructure including the £556million to LEPs in the North.”
Meanwhile, the National Living Wage is to increase by 30p an hour to £7.50 next year – but opinion is still divided whether it benefits everyone.
While workers will celebrate extra cash in their pockets, small businesses are concerned that the extra cash has to be found from their own pockets.
The head of Preston’s Credit Union believes the announcements will be welcomed by families in the town.
Mike Barry said: “We increasingly see our members struggling to get by each month so any measures to help them stretch their money further has to be welcome.
“The rise in the minimum wage and allowing people to keep a little more of their universal credit when they return to work is a start.”
Rob Payne, chief executive of hotels group Best Western Great Britain, commented: “The increase in National Living Wage from April will help make the hospitality industry more attractive which we welcome.
“But it also adds to the price pressures that hotel owners are already feeling and once again comes without a roadmap for future increases which our members tell us they need to help budget with confidence.
“Our members are also concerned that the well intentioned increase in the National Living Wage could end up backfiring. ”