July 25: Jobs potential needs securing: North still behind the game

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THE fact that the North’s city-regions, including Leeds and Sheffield, continue to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to key economic indicators serves to further underline the importance of the debate, started by The Yorkshire Post seven days ago, on this area’s future leadership.

If the North-South divide is to rebalanced in this region’s favour, it will require a sustained effort by politicians and business leaders, irrespective of whether they opt for a Yorkshire-wide mayor or a more piecemeal approach. However, the Office for National Statistics data can only help to shape the debate on three counts.

First, why is Bristol forging ahead? Is it because it embraced the concept of an elected mayor as long ago as 2012 – or is it because its workforce is better qualified and therefore more productive? Either way, Yorkshire businesses will only prosper if employees possess the skills that are most relevant to a dynamic and digital first global economy.

Second, why do more people leave Sheffield each day for work purposes rather than travel into the city? Is it because there are better opportunities in other parts of South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, or is it because of a lack of suitable premises for new businesses?

Third, George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse needs to becomes a reality. Having identified the need for the region’s transport infrastructure to be overhauled in order to improve connectivity between cities, there remains deep unease over the direction of travel since the election and, specifically, the decision to halt the upgrading of the Leeds to Manchester and Sheffield to London rail routes. In the interim, the priority is for the region’s key decision-makers to unite behind a plan which maximises Yorkshire’s potential – the outcome cannot come soon enough.

People power: One answer to energy question

THESE are challenging times for the renewable energy industry, even though offshore wind is proving to be the catalyst for Hull’s economic revival.

The Government’s decision to scrap the Green Deal, a flagship policy intended to improve the energy efficiency of homes, comes as Tory MPs demand a further reduction in subsidies now they’re no longer beholden to environmentally-minded Liberal Democrats.

This is exemplified by David Davis who believes that wind farm operators should be subjected to greater financial accountability in order to protect the interests of his Haltemprice and Howden constituents whose lives have been blighted by large turbines.

Yet, while many will welcome the Government’s desire to only support those schemes that are financially viable, this is not precluding York Community Energy from holding a major conference to explore how homes and businesses in the city can be powered by solar installations – the assumption is that the sun, even in Britain, is more reliable than wind speed. There is certainly a market for communities coming together and looking at innovative ways to harness resources and expertise.

However this will only work if green energy can be proven to be cost-effective, a test that still needs to be past if more people are to
be convinced about the merits of solar and wind power in the future.

Out of order again: Speaker’s travel costs exposed

NOT ONLY is John Bercow the most pompous Speaker of the House of Commons in living memory, but he’s also one of the most profligate after racking up a £172 bill to be chauffeur-driven just 0.7 miles to a conference. Far from being an isolated incident, such behaviour appears to be the norm judging by the latest Freedom of Information disclosures which reveal, amongst many vignettes, that it cost the public purse £168 for Mr Bercow to be driven back to his official apartments from King’s Cross Station after a day out in Leeds.

Such largesse should be seen in the context of the £4.80 that it costs to make the same journey by London Underground – or the £20 that would be charged by one of the capital’s iconic black cabs if Mr Bercow did not wish to ingratiate himself with the travelling hoi polloi. Having been elected in 2009 on a promise to restore Parliament’s reputation following the expenses scandal, he is rapidly becoming a liability because of his arrogance and failure to acknowledge that it is taxpayers who are subsidising his grandeur. The sooner Mr Bercow is replaced with a respected individual who can use the authority of the Speaker’s chair to bring Parliament and MPs to order, the better.