Yet while news of the departure of Andrea Leadsom as business secretary, and the sacking of Theresa Villiers at environment, came as little surprise, the resignation of Sajid Javid as chancellor sent some real ripples of concern around a utilities sector still awaiting budget clarity on future spending, national infrastructure and the ever-elusive Energy White Paper.
Understandably, the Treasury versus Number 10 mêlée has dominated headlines. But less high profile was the news that Northern Powerhouse minister, Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry, had “chosen to leave” government. Meanwhile, responsibility for the project at Cabinet level has moved to transport secretary (and home counties MP) Grant Schapps.
At first sight this feels like a downgrading of the Northern Powerhouse concept, a curious move at a time when regional issues – particularly infrastructure investment for the North of England – are riding high on the political agenda.
And, as Utility Week has been exploring in our “Regional Growth & Utilities” series, many within industry had seen the new Westminster focus on unifying the country as a welcome one for a sector gearing up to the nationwide challenges of net zero. They also know how the growth of clean energy can be game-changing for the prosperity of the local communities they operate in, as exemplified in our special report about the impact of renewables on the Humber.
Yet some industry players see the Cabinet “adjustments” as no bad thing – far from it. They believe the move reflects just how integral to the new “Johnsonomics” the government’s commitment to northern growth and its infrastructure has become – a stance seemingly borne out by this month’s decision to proceed with HS2.
Meanwhile, as the chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership business lobby group, Henri Murison, pointed out in an interview with Utility Week earlier this month, the North will also have a strong cabinet champion in the shape of ex-Treasury chief secretary, and now newly appointed chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
Murison greeted last week’s announcement by describing the MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, as “a steadfast supporter of closing the North-South divide”.
It seems all bets are still on for the “levelling up” to begin.