George Osborne launches Northern Powerhouse think tank

George Osborne pictured when he launched the Northern Powerhouse as chancellor.

He may no longer be a member of the government, but former chancellor George Osborne seems determined to continue to be an influential voice in politics and in his own party as he launched a new think tank today to promote the Northern Powerhouse.

Speaking in Manchester on taking up a new role as chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (though it’s been called the Northern Powerhouse Institute elsewhere), Osborne said: “Chairing this new partnership will now be a major focus of my political energies. The Northern Powerhouse is here to stay.”

The new body has been backed by the government and will be a privately-funded institute that will commission specialist research and work corroboratively with other organisations to produce research and insight from a pan-Northern perspective. It will support the delivery of existing Northern Powerhouse commitments and develop the evidence base for taking the initiative further in areas such as skills, housing and research and innovation.

Significantly, the initiative has the support of the UK’s only existing Northern-focused think-tank, IPPR North. Its director Ed Cox said: “We warmly welcome a new think-tank focused on the North of England. IPPR North has long argued that to make the North the most progressive place in Europe, we need more policy ideas, not fewer. This can only reinforce the reality that the Northern Powerhouse is far less a Whitehall programme and far more an initiative driven by northern business, innovation and leadership.”

Osborne will chair a board made up of senior politicians and business chiefs from major Northern towns and cities. “There’s a real excitement now in the north about what we can achieve if we work together,” Osborne said. “I don’t want us to lose that. That’s why I’m so pleased major businesses, civic leaders and others have worked with me to create this new northern powerhouse partnership. I’m also glad that the government has given its support.”

Osborne said that the new think tank would “keep asking questions about what more we can do to help the North succeed and take a greater role in deciding its own future”.

Commenting on the new initiative, communities secretary Sajid Javid said: “This government realises the huge untapped potential of our great northern towns and cities. That is why I warmly welcome the launch of the northern powerhouse partnership. I hope it will become an important part of the debate and help us to do all we can to further boost jobs, growth and opportunities in the north of England.”

Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive of Mace said: “The Northern Powerhouse Institute will be the strong business voice the North needs and an important contributor to the future direction and development of the north of England. New transport infrastructure and connectivity are absolutely vital for boosting growth, developing skills, opening up opportunity and increasing wellbeing in the north of England. Mace has worked on major infrastructure and development schemes in the North for over 20 years. We have seen first-hand the unrivalled passion, excitement and dedication of local people to turn the Northern Powerhouse Partnership from rhetoric to reality.

It will certainly be interesting to watch the progress of the new partnership, George Osborne's role in it and how it will be viewed by government and local authority leaders, mostly Labour, who will have a key stake in its work. Given the apparent change in emphasis in the May administration on devolved powers, Osborne could well find himself lobbying his old department and colleagues in the weeks and months ahead.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email