The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made a trip to Wetherby this week, visiting a textiles business where he talked about his plan to create a northern economic powerhouse.
Touring the factory and offices at Arville Textiles on Sandbeck Lane with managing director Jim Wight on Tuesday, the Chancellor spoke of how places like Wetherby can benefit from his vision to encourage growth in the North of England.
This visit came shortly after Mr Osborne set out his ‘pathway’ for connecting cities in the north in Manchester earlier in the day.
According to analysis by the Treasury, wider investment in rail, roads, airports, and science and technology could encourage the northern economy to make better progress over the next 15 years.
This would be worth an estimated additional £44bn to the northern economy - equivalent to more than £1,600 for each person living there.
Though Mr Osborne talked specifically about the benefits of his northern powerhouse scheme for cities like nearby Leeds, he said smaller towns can also profit by making the most of what is on offer.
“One of the reasons I have come to Wetherby is to say this is not just about the big city centres, but the whole of West Yorkshire,” he said.
“I am absolutely passionate about this. I represent a constituency in the North of England and I can see the opportunities there.
“Smaller towns like Wetherby benefit from making sure that they are better connected into the cities through the tram and train idea from local MP Alec Shelbrooke and it is interesting to talk to the company here that has not expanded in the last few years and now for the first time in living memory it has apprentices.”
During his tour of Arville Textiles, Mr Osborne officially opened the new offices and took in the weaving shed and yarn preparation and finishing factory, speaking with the management and apprentices Luke Dubery and Ryan Byrom.
Afterwards the Chancellor told the Wetherby News he was encouraged by what he saw.
He said: “The management here were enthused about the northern powerhouse, and here is a real world example of how it can work.
“What motivates me in my job is when you meet someone like Luke or Ryan who now have real economic opportunities and they are part of a great manufacturing business and that is what it is all about.”
Arville managing director Jim Wight guided Mr Osborne around the entire site after an initial meeting in the newly opened offices.
The visit was sent as a request to the company last week, and Mr Wight said he was happy and delighted to welcome the Chancellor.
“It is important that politicians are aware of what we are doing and the issues facing businesses,” he said.
“In the meeting we discussed the northern powerhouse idea and we are big supporters of that because it would be fantastic if there could be links between the cities up here. We need to keep key skills and areas of trade.”
Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke also accompanied Mr Osborne on his visit to Wetherby’s Sandbeck Lane, and said he was thrilled to see the Chancellor in the thriving town, where the unemployment count has more than halved since the last election.
He said: “Before my election as the local MP in Wetherby I made a pledge to do all I could to bring investment and local jobs to our area, so I was pleased to join the Chancellor as he announced a raft of new measures to increase connectivity and support more jobs in Yorkshire.”
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the area Veronica King, however, said it is Mr Osborne’s actions rather than his words that will make the difference to local people.
She said: “Only Labour will properly back our cities and regions with ambitious plans to devolve more funding and economic power to them.”
“The Chancellor is failing to back Labour’s plans to devolve billions of pounds of funding to cities and has refused to back our proposal for an independent infrastructure commission to end the dither and delay on long-term investment decisions.
“People in Wetherby are £1,800 a year worse off as a result of the Chancellor’s failed economic policies, and simply can’t afford five more years of the same old Tory economics.”