Minister reveals Whitehall officials asked him ‘if Teesside and Merseyside are the same’

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Whitehall officials charged with leading the government’s program for the Northern Power Plant asked ministers “if Teesside and Merseyside are the same.”

Upgrade Minister Neil O’Brien explained at an event on the sidelines of a Conservative Party conference how he was forced to give a geography lesson to his London officials while working on the plan for the George Osborne’s North Power Station.

The minister said: “An official really asked me, when I was working on the North Power Plant, if Teesside and Merseyside are the same thing, I was like no, no.”

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who was also on the panel, said he had had similar experiences.

He said that when he first traveled to Whitehall with a wish list for his area, he quickly discovered that “very few officials could put Teesside on the map.”

The couple attended the event to discuss the government’s “upgrading program,” which covers everything from transportation and education to jobs and the redevelopment of Main Street.

Mr O’Brien said at an event hosted by think tank Onward: “What is the upgrade? There are four elements, the first part is about empowering local leaders and communities.

“The second part is about private sector growth and raising living standards, there is a third part about spreading opportunities and improving public services and the fourth part is about restoring local pride, that is, part of it is about the look and feel of your downtown area, part of it is making sure that crime is low, part of it is about civil society. “



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Mr O’Brien added: “This is not about the North against the South, it is a program for the whole country.”

Labor shadow local government secretary Steve Reed rejected the plan, he said: “Meaningless slogans will not solve the inequalities between our regions that the Tories have created and then widened over the past decade. .

“They prevent residents from having a say in developments on their doorstep and channeling investments to richer areas before poorer communities. It is a conservative government that is dividing our country without opening up opportunities for everyone. “

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