NORTH-West MPs and councillors have hit out at Boris Johnson's government, following the announcement that the Northern Powerhouse Minister role is to be downgraded.

It has been announced that MP Simon Clarke, a junior minister, will take over the role from Jake Berry.

This means there will be no minister for the scheme present at cabinet meetings, although responsibility at the cabinet level has been handed to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Northern Powerhouse is a devolution programme designed to 'level up' Britain's economy. The scheme, thought up by George Osborne, has come under sustained criticism amid swingeing cuts imposed on councils in the north of England.

Phillip Black, Labour councillor at Lancaster City Council, said: "The efficacy of the Northern Powerhouse project has long been questioned by people who actually live and work in the North.

"The vast majority of the funding, effort and token devolutionary gestures have been ploughed into Manchester whilst the rest of the North – dozens of smaller cities, towns and rural communities - have been largely ignored. All of the imbalances that the Northern Powerhouse Minister was supposed to address still exist.

"We are still facing a wage divide, health inequality, a London-centric economy and massively disproportionate capital investments which favour transport and infrastructure in the South. When it comes to issues like the Northern Rail fiasco, the Minister showed absolutely no ability to tackle the problem.

"Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle confirms what we have suspected for years; the Northern Powerhouse project was always all about appearances, it simply pays lip-service to representing and promoting the interests of the North. By farming the role out to a subordinate junior minister who is excluded even from the cabinet, the Prime Minister has sent a very clear message to the North: you don’t matter."

A 2018 investigation revealed that former Northern Powerhouse Minister, James Wharton, rarely left London to visit the North.

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said of the latest development: “The decision to downgrade the role of Northern Powerhouse minister speaks volumes about how low a priority the North is for the Conservative Party.

“The term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was cooked up the best part of a decade ago, but for us in Cumbria it doesn’t really feel much like a Powerhouse and it doesn’t feel very Northern either."