But take this from the labour leader of Greater Manchester Council, Sir Richard Leese, after his trip 2 weeks ago to China with the chancellor:
"A few days in China doesn't half help put the relevance of the northern powerhouse concept into perspective. The North of England has around 15million residents, it's major cities, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield ( including their whole city region areas ) 10million. If you draw a triangle with Newcastle, Sheffield, and Liverpool as its corners, the land area covered is less than that by the cities of Beijing or Shanghai on their own. Chongqing's 30million people live in a city the size of Austria.
On the other hand, if you look at the economy of the North of England, at £290b per annum GVA, it is larger than that of Denmark or Sweden. Premier League football is a great door opener here, but though everybody seems to know about Manchester City and Manchester United, they don't in general know much more about our city, and we are pretty tiny compared to even medium size Chinese cities. If we succeed in getting the transport investment we want over the next ten to fifteen years to get the sort of connectivity that we want between the northern cities - connectivity that will help us create the virtual super city of the North, then as a virtual city of 10million people, a city bigger than London, we begin to register.
All five city Leaders have been here this week and we are finding that working together to promote economic opportunity across the North is getting a real return. So far we have presented to a number of high-level business audiences in Beijing and Shanghai, and this afternoon we will do so in Chengdu, a city of 12million plus in China's south west, and a part of China that continues to have double digit growth.
I have regularly argued that Manchester's future, like its past, is as an international city, and to be that we have to promote ourselves internationally, both for trade and investment. Being here is already having an impact with major companies we have met here already seeking appointments to meet us in Manchester before I've even left. We've had a number of recent examples of Chinese investment in the city, the most recent relating to Middlewood Locks in Salford. There is plenty of room for a few more."
“The harsh reality is that whilst the North East squabbles the Labour-led local authorities of Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, Liverpool and elsewhere are pressing ahead and embracing the government’s offer of devolution.
Let us be clear: all the North East businesses, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, North East Chamber of Commerce, and a multitude of other organisations see the force in uniting transport, health, and a large number of regional services, in an integrated manner, under the ultimate control of a directly-elected mayor. The mayor-led model has worked for London.
The only objectors are some or all of the 7 Local Authority county council leaders. Why?
There are only two possible explanations: either they wish to preserve their own fiefdoms and fear that someone from Gateshead, Sunderland or Newcastle might be in charge with the result that the mayor will not favour them / feather their nest as only they can; or they do not have aspirations for the wider North East?
I cannot believe that this is the case, because surely they accept that we are better together as a larger unit, competing as we are on the global scale and other larger regions.
Is this is a power struggle amongst the seven local authority leaders? I do not know.
But it smacks of the old story of ‘if Newcastle gets this then Sunderland must get a bridge’. This attitude is genuinely holding us back. I urge everyone to make the case for unity, for a mayor, for greater devolution and greater jobs and prosperity.”