YP Comment: No time for back-seat drivers, George, as skills challenge issued

George Osborne.
George Osborne.
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LIKE the timeless proverb about waiting for a bus and then two come along at once, the same can also be said of the Government’s approach to Yorkshire and the rest of the North.

Long neglected after the decline of traditional manufacturing industries, Theresa May’s new-look Industrial Strategy now supersedes former chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse.

Yet what is important, as Mr Osborne launches the first report of his Northern Powerhouse Partnership in Leeds today, that any rivalry does not become counter-productive – there should be no exclusivity on those ideas which have the greatest potential to create a new generation of jobs.

That said, Mr Osborne remains a major political figure who deserves credit for acknowledging the scale of the North-South divide and recognising the untapped potential that exists here as he changed the terms of the economic and political debate.

However, despite his bumptiousness, Mr Osborne needs to remember that he is no longer Chancellor – the conduct of the EU referendum campaign did damage his credibility – and it’s for his successor Philip Hammond, and Theresa May, to determine spending priorities. They need supporting rather than any distractions from ‘back seat drivers’ and unnecessary arguments about semantics.

After all, these only serve to overshadow the conclusions of today’s report and Mr Osborne’s stark admission that the academic attainment of 16-year-olds is “too low in the North, leaving us lagging behind the UK and international competitors”.

This is not to denigrate teachers and students, it’s recognition that standards need to be even higher if this region is to hold its own in a digital first global economy.

And while more needs to be done to persuade talented graduates to put down roots here, this divide will remain unless schools receive the resources that were made available to London when exam results in the capital were amongst the worst in the country. Given this issue preceded the 2010 election, it begs the question why Mr Osborne could not provide parity of funding during his tenureship of the Treasury? If it was possible, he would have done so, wouldn’t he?

Police response to car crime

WEST Yorkshire Police’s coyness about car crime is understandable in some regards – the priority afforded to each offence does depend on the specific circumstances, the quality of evidence that might be ascertainable and the likelihood of the offender being apprehended.

Yet, while the police do have to prioritise the allocation of resources, the public are irked that officers are no longer sent out routinely to such incidents. The results of the force’s latest victim satisfaction survey reiterates this unhappiness.

However the constabulary, and its relatively new chief constable Dee Collins, need to appreciate the importance of transparency, even more so after the South Yorkshire force was left overwhelmed by the confluence of a succession of scandals, past and present, which are proving such a distraction to all those officers tasked with rebuilding trust.

Policing is at its best when it is a partnership between officers and the public. Rather than risking the alienation of victims who, as taxpayers, believe they are entitled to a police callout, perhaps there needs to be a greater focus on preventing car crime. And, inevitably, that requires all forces, including West Yorkshire, being more open and accountable.

Turning pointe

A FEW years ago even the most optimistic of estate agents would have described Northern Ballet’s headquarters as ‘in need of renovation’.

In truth the heating didn’t work, the windows rattled and tucked away on the outskirts of Leeds, the company was often out of sight and out of mind.

It was artistic director David Nixon who drove Northern Ballet’s move from its old base to the centre of the city and into the largest purpose-built dance studios and theatre outside London.

Once there, the company continued to produce work much as it had always had, but fast forward six years and the impact is clear.

Northern Ballet’s local, national and international profile has never been greater and it will, to 
prove the point, stage 
three world premieres 
this year.

It’s an achievement which not even the big London dance companies can rival and further reason why the North deserves a fairer deal when it comes to arts funding.