The UK’s regional imbalance was well and truly brought home in the recent election, where the issues facing the North of the country played a big role and the contrasting years of heavy investment in London and the south put under the spotlight. The reality is that we have two countries in one, the prosperous South and the rest, you can see this when you look at the figures, only three regions contribute to government more than they receive, London, the Southeast and parts of the East and East Anglia, where the influence of London is more heavily felt.
The UK has an unbalanced economy which needs addressing, that means we need a reboot, so that every part of the UK economy is equipped to maximise efficiency and productivity and can trade globally, not just London and the South East. Some of Europe’s richest areas are in London and the south east, but some of the poorest are in the UK’s rural, northern and coastal areas, so we really do need to reunite the country and its people.
We are now seeing a national argument about infrastructure, moving departments, Conservative central office and the house of Lords North. There is also focus on the benefits and costs of HS2. But many of the regions are being failed with poor rail services, reduced bus services, roads that have potholes including some motorways and relatively short journeys becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming.
The Rural services network have an aspiration that “No individual or business should be handicapped because of their location” and George Osborne the ex-chancellor when asked the one think he would do as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative to improve matters in the north focussed on transport and connectivity.
If the UK is to prosper the whole country must move forward rather than some areas progressing with others being left behind. The UKs Industrial strategy needs to be revised to include this change at its heart. True devolution needs to be part of this greater national plan, so government sets the destination, but the journey is managed locally, where they not only have the responsibility but also the authority and budgets to implement the changes required. The massive budgets that have gone into London over the years need to be focussed in the North, developing and supporting strong regional businesses, developing people with skills to work in and grow them and provide the transport network to build the whole UK economy not just the south.
- Focus on the whole economy, equality and a level playing field.
- Balanced transport and infrastructure, less within the south and more northern as well as eastern to western connections.
- Balanced connectivity, physical and digital.
- Devolution, with authority going alongside responsibility, so power and authority to the regions and regional mayors.
- Support the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and other regional drivers.
- Move Government departments out of London and into other cities.
- “Ohana, means family, family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”