A £15m fund to boost culture and creativity in the north of England has been launched.
Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, said the money would have a “transformative local effect” and provide a legacy from next year’s Great Exhibition of the North, a huge showcase for art, design and innovation in the region.
The money comes on top of £3.4bn invested in projects to boost local economies, the northern powerhouse minister, Jake Berry, said.
The move comes with the government under fire about a north-south divide in public spending
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, angered politicians in the north by announcing government support for a £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme for London, days after axing or downgrading rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the north.
Mayors and council leaders from Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds expressed their concern that the government has become less committed to the idea of a “northern powerhouse” after the departure of David Cameron and George Osborne. They will hold a summit with business leaders this month to press ministers for more investment.
In an attempt to show the government’s commitment to the region, Berry said: “The north is a cultural powerhouse, as well as an economic one, and this £15m fund will give a boost to the region’s vibrant culture and tech sectors.
“We’ve already invested over £3.4bn for projects to boost local economies in the northern powerhouse and this latest funding will help make sure the Great Exhibition of the North creates a legacy for years to come.”
Newcastle and Gateshead will host the two-month exhibition in the summer of 2018. Plans were first announced for the the £5m showcase by Osborne last November as part of the then chancellor’s northern powerhouse initiative.
The £15m northern cultural regeneration fund is now open to bids from across the region. The first round of bids will be coordinated by local enterprise partnerships and successful projects will be announced in March.
Officials suggested that projects could include opening a new tech start-up centre or renovating live music venues.
Bradley said: “We want as many people as possible to benefit from the Great Exhibition of the North, and this fund will boost the northern powerhouse and help build a lasting legacy across the whole region.”