SAJID Javid MP, the Business Secretary responsible for taking the 250 BIS jobs from Yorkshire and relocating them to London, gave platitudes and nice words with little or no substance in his recent article in The Yorkshire Post.
He talks about the Northern Powerhouse, but what we get is the Northern Poorhouse.
It was good to see that he could tell Yorkshire what the Government was doing for this region in just 20 minutes. It reminded me of the hilarious Blackadder sketch about the 20 minutes – though that was about the life expectancy of recruits in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War.
Twenty minutes. For the future of Yorkshire. It actually shows they may say they have a long term plan, but it would be nice to know what they have decided for us. There was no plan, there is no plan. No plan to address our under-performance as a region. No plan to create joined up thinking as to how we deliver a prosperous region.
And let us be clear, we have challenges as well as opportunities as a region.
We have massive under-performance of our schools. We have the worst GCSE results, and the lowest number of good or outstanding schools at early years level. Not only does the Government have no plan, it is busy taking away any local influence in schools, centralising it yet again in London.
The funding allocated to each pupil in York is around £4,250 per annum. This compares to £8,500 in London. Meanwhile the city deals do not even give control over schools.
Some devolution. But it could be different. The London Challenge managed to address the previous under-performance of schools in the capital, by operating regionally across all of London’s 20-plus local councils. It balanced fair funding, with a focus on high standards and listening to the professionals. Yorkshire needs this too.
Yorkshire has three of the poorest 10 areas in the whole of Northern Europe. Strangely, the UK also has the wealthiest area in Northern Europe: Inner London. Whilst it is good for us to have a strong capital, it should not be at the expense of the regions. It seems London succeeds by sucking the life, vitality, youth and investment out of the regions.
It could be different. By empowering the regions, we could begin to put in place the long term plans that work for us here. But we have no means of doing this. Despite having 1,225 councillors, 22 councils and 54 MPs, there is no vision for Yorkshire.
A few sectors that we could focus on are energy, tourism, and manufacturing by way of example. Yorkshire generates 16 per cent of UK energy and could be an energy hub as we move towards a non-carbon future. But this would require a joined up and regional approach.
The same applies to the high-quality engineering and manufacturing that we have here. We have a manufacturing base approximately double the UK average. We need stability, a long term focus on exports and the essential basics such as transport, education and investment in skills.
If any proof was needed of how pulling together as a region works, we only need to look as far as tourism. The one area where Yorkshire has done phenomenally well is also the one area where we do have joined up thinking. The result? Success, awards, a growing pride in the region and all it has to offer.
We live in extraordinary times, and we have the possibility to create a Yorkshire and a UK that works for all parts and regions. The growing appetite for new ways of doing things has been seen in the recent elections.
In various parts of the UK, people were able to discuss and vote what was right for their nation or region, be it Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or London. Using fair voting systems and real powers it was worth people’s time to get involved, discuss the issues and vote.
This is what Yorkshire needs. But what we got instead was zero opportunity to discuss regional issues. Indeed, only parts of Yorkshire voted, using a variety of confusing voting systems and with no regional focus.
We will continue to put the region first and argue for real powers for the whole of Yorkshire similar to those that Scotland has. After all Yorkshire has a larger population than Scotland, and an economy twice that of Wales. It needs the powers to act.
It’s time for real change. It’s time for Yorkshire.
Richard Carter is leader of Yorkshire First, the party for Yorkshire.