FORMER chancellor George Osborne engaged in a ‘fireside chat’ with Carlisle MP John Stevenson at the Northern Research Group (NRG) conference in Doncaster.

Conservatives from across the North gathered in South Yorkshire on Friday, June 9 to discuss policy initiatives ahead of a likely General Election in 2024.

Amongst the ideas suggested by group chair John Stevenson included a ‘Northern Powerhouse 2.0’ to help ‘transform’ the northern economy.

George Osborne launched the original Northern Powerhouse project in 2014 before the policy fell out of favour with successive governments and the levelling up agenda took its place in more recent years.

The proposal would aim to reposition the British economy away from London and the South East and would involve improvement to transport links, investment in science and innovation, and devolution of powers in City Deals.

At the conference the former chancellor backed Mr Stevenson’s call for a Northern Powerhouse 2.0 in a wide-ranging conversation with the Carlisle MP.

Mr Osborne said: “I think the Conservatives can afford to approach this by being much more ambitious on devolution.

“We should now be looking, as we fire up Northern Powerhouse 2.0, to give more power to local elected bodies, including metro mayors.”

Mr Osborne referenced the particular challenge faced by Cumbria compared with the towns and cities across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

“It’s quite hard to have an individual national government policy for every town and my best solution is to better connect the towns to the cities so that economic activity can flow, which is a particular problem in Carlisle but that can be the centre of a cluster too.”

The Northern Powerhouse plans include a proposed ‘Charles’ railway line which would provide high speed, reliable and regular rail transport from Liverpool and Manchester to Leeds and Bradford on a line which would be shorter than the Central Line on the London Underground.

READ MORE: Carlisle MP calls for 'Northern Powerhouse 2.0' in major policy speech | News and Star

Cumbria would miss out on this plan, but John Stevenson said that ‘a strong north’ means a ‘stronger Britain'.

“Transport policies to be two levels,” said Mr Stevenson.

“One is strategic, and one is more localized.

“If you look at the local one, our ring road, that is hugely significant to Carlisle, but it doesn't benefit Newcastle or Manchester. But it does have a major impact in our area which is the same with the trainline.”

The full Northern Powerhouse plan will be unveiled by the NRG in October ahead of the Conservative Party Conference.