THE Chancellor has reaffirmed his commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, saying it is key to Britain unlocking its full potential.

During a visit to Lancashire Cricket Club yesterday, Philip Hammond told the Messenger that seeing through the creation of the Northern Powerhouse will be vital to post-Brexit.

Mr Hammond said: “Like the former Chancellor, George Osborne, I am a great fan of the Northern Powerhouse and I have worked on it with him when we were in opposition when I was Shadow Chief Secretary and I have also worked with Jim O’Neill.

“The project is based on economic logic. It is not a political fantasy, it is not a romantic notion — it is a hard economic project that we have a cluster of cities that are close enough together that with good transport infrastructure linking them they can become a single economic geography with all the benefits of agglomeration of bringing that mass of people and market power together and that’s the prize.

“And Britain will not achieve its full potential unless we unlock the potential of other cities that have been left behind in the past. Manchester is doing a pretty good job on its own of rebuilding the city, but across the region, across the North, we need to get those markets working, get those transport link built and create the Powerhouse.”

Mr Hammond was asked if there were any short-term announcements in the pipeline ahead of building of the HS2 high speed rail line

He said: “Well Metrolink, it’s happening, it’s not long term, we have put money in in the Autumn Budget last November to secure the connections from HS2 to enable Northern Powerhouse rail to go ahead in the future that is a long-term project, but we have committed to it.”

During his visit, when he was accompanied by Trafford Council leader Sean Anstee, the club’s CEO, Daniel Gidney, and chairman David Hodgkiss, Mr Hammond said: “I have come to Trafford because it is one of our signature councils which has done a fantastic job in delivering high-quality services and keeping council tax down and that’s our message across the country.”

The Messenger reminded Mr Hammond that the borough had recently been ranked as one of the worst performing local authorities in the country for care homes, with 40 per cent deemed as being inadequate or needing improvement.

He said: “First of all, Trafford and the government have put in record levels of funding for social care. But, probably more important that just the money is the initiative around partnership between the NHS and the borough in delivering joined up care.

“The benefits to patients in future and the benefits in terms of effective use of the money that’s available are huge.

“I know there has been challenges, but I think what’s happened now in that the new direction of travel, the new funding that is available means that we will see those benefits coming through.”

Finally, we asked the Chancellor if his view on Brexit had changed bearing in mind people in the borough have voted overwhelmingly at the 2016 referendum to remain in Europe.

He added: “The British people have spoken, we are a democracy, so their decision has to be delivered.

“What matters now is that we go about the process of leaving the EU in a way that maximises the potential for the British economy, British jobs, British businesses and Britain’s prosperity in the future.

“In my judgement, the Brexit that keeps us in a close partnership with the European Union, as a separate country outside the European Union, but a country that will trade closely, will work closely and remain close friends with our European neighbours, that’s going to be the best and most prosperous future and that’s what I am striving for.”

Chris Fletcher, the marketing and campaigns director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, told the Messenger after the visit: “It is reassuring that the commitment to the Northern Powerhouse is still there from government. And it is also reassuring that the focus seems to be very much on the fact that the key to making this happen is fully centred on and around improving transport connectivity between the major employment centres across the north.

“While this is moving in the right direction it is crucial that government doesn’t take its foot off the gas when it comes to further devolution of powers away from Whitehall and to those areas with elected mayors.

"Investment works, but investment controlled by locally elected decision makers would work a lot better and make the success of any future Northern Powerhouse that much more certain.”