Devolved powers do not go far enough – Burnham

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham
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Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham says he wants to see more power devolved down to councils like Preston if the Northern Powerhouse is to become a reality.

Mr Burnham, speaking after a visit to BAE Systems in Samlesbury, said the powerhouse would only be truly effective if it included all towns and cities.

Business leaders and politicians have complained that the high-speed rail link between Manchester and London and devolved powers to large councils like Manchester and Liverpool would not bring great benefits to many areas of Lancashire.

And many observers say better Lancashire-to-Yorkshire transport links joining up all major towns and cities are needed.

Leigh MP Mr Burnham, who is contending the leadership with Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, and front-runner Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I want to see more power pushed down to council level. That doesn’t mean just Manchester and Merseyside but smaller councils as well – then we will have a proper inclusive Northern Powerhouse.”

He agreed that the east-west rail links needed improvement, linking all major northern cities.

Mr Burnham toured the North West and spent the morning at BAE Systems in Samlesbury, where the Eurofighter Typhoon and part of the American F-35 are made.

He said it was his first visit to the company and workers were quite rightly asking questions about Labour’s defence policy if he came to power.

He said he was all for a strong UK defence and keeping Trident.

Mr Burnham said he was impressed with the work done on site and the company’s apprenticeship programme which both played a vital role in the Lancashire economy.

The former health secretary said: “I am committed to a stronge defence and of course that came up in the Q and A sessions. Another thing that came up was the uncertainty on the question of Europe – are we in or out? I would bring clarity on that if I get the job.”

A decision on the next leader is expected in mid-September, with Mr Corbyn the bookies’ favourite.