Convention of the North: Prime Minister backs Sheffield's call for cultural cash

The Prime Minister was asked to support a call for cultural cash in Sheffield on the day a new campaign group was launched and said: “If we can we will.”

Friday, 13th September 2019, 19:10 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP, speaking at the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre. Pic Steve Ellis

Boris Johnson was asked whether the new Cultural Collective was something he would support, as part of a drive to boost the economy and help communities thrive.

He said: “I will be happy to study the request. If there’s any way we can, we will.”

The premier took the question on stage at the Convention of the North at Magna in Rotherham after a speech to 800 people.

A heckler is ejected as Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech at the Convention of the North.

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It came on the day the new body was featured on the front page of The Star.

Members are calling for government cash to reverse years of underfunding compared to similar cities.

Cultural Collective chair, Dame Julie Kenny, said the PM's response opened the door to them putting their case directly to the Number Ten.

She added: “It’s an opportunity to go to him and explain what we are trying to do. He’s open to hearing from us. It’s the best start we could hope for at such an early stage.”

Pro-European protesters at the Convention of the North. Pic Steve Ellis

Political and business leaders from across the North, young people, trade unionists and community leaders attended the event, which was part-funded by Government.

Mr Johson talked about investing in transport and devolving powers and funding to “level up” the regions. He said central government could abdicate responsibilities to local champions who would make a difference.

But politicians had to represent people, be accountable and show leadership, he added.

At this point a protester leapt up and shouted “why are you not with them?” in an apparent reference to the prorogation of Parliament, before being bundled out by security.

The Prime Minister went on to quash One Yorkshire ambitions for a county-wide devolution deal, again.

He said: “We want more mayors across the North. We’re looking to get the Sheffield City Region deal done and want negotiations with Leeds and North Yorkshire to make mayors work there too, whatever the longer term arrangements may be.”

He outlined plans to devolve running trains to northern regions, including control over fares, services, rolling stock, stations and budgets.

He added: “As well as the credit you will have to take the heat. Choices about projects will have to be made and if it is too much regions will have to raise the money themselves.”

Mr Johnson also restated his ambition to Brexit on October 31. Earlier, several dozen pro-European protesters, waving blue and yellow flags, had gathered at the gates to greet him.

Leader of Rotherham Council Chris Read said the speech was thin on substance from a prime minister who was “clearly on the election trail.”

He added: “He was talking up the commitment to more police officers when South Yorkshire has 500 less today than in 2010. And he was talking about investment in railways when getting rid of Pacer trains in South Yorkshire has been put back again.

“After the last decade, such talk has got to be backed up by substantial funding and there was none of that.”

Rotherham is set to receive £25 million from the new Stronger Towns Fund.

But Mr Read said “it would not touch the sides.”