A row has broken out over the Treasury’s plan to set up a Northern base after top civil servants were accused of a ‘Yes, Minister’ style stitch-up.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has proposed moving 800 officials to the hub – dubbed Treasury North – with locations thought to include Leeds, Teesside and Newcastle.
It is part of a Whitehall shake-up that will see thousands of jobs moved from London. A decision could be announced with the Budget.
Plans: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proposed moving 800 officials to a northern base – dubbed Treasury North
But top civil servants have been accused of trying to engineer the selection of Newcastle, angering leaders in Teesside who say their area is well-suited to the hub and has most to gain economically.
There have also been cries of foul play after it emerged that the government agency in charge of finding buildings for the hubs is chaired by a top council official from Newcastle. Mr Sunak is said to have been interested in Teesside, which neighbours his Richmond constituency.
Locals argue it is the kind of place Tory ministers promised to level up in the last election.
But there is dismay in Teesside following reports that civil servants favour Newcastle because of its ‘better cultural life’ and visited last week to scout out locations, signalling it could be the frontrunner.
The involvement of a Newcastle City Council official at the Government Property Agency (GPA), which is advising the Treasury, has also raised eyebrows. Pat Ritchie, 61, is the local authority’s chief executive but she has also served as chairman of the GPA since January last year.
Ben Houchen, the Tory metro mayor for the Tees Valley, said: ‘I have a very real fear that certain Treasury officials still believe the area is ‘all flat caps and steel works’ and that this outdated view will undermine the case for the area.
‘This could end as a ‘Yes, Minister’ situation, where civil servants in the Treasury and the GPA try to stitch this up.’ Andy Preston, the independent elected mayor of Middlesbrough, added: ‘We deserve a fair chance and cast-iron guarantee that there is going to be no stitch up. Newcastle is booming. But in Middlesbrough we have been overlooked for so long.’
A Treasury spokesman insisted that the GPA ‘does not have a role in the location decision’ and that this would ultimately fall to Sunak.
Source: Daily Mail |World News