Minding the funding gap

in spite of the Government’s many promises to narrow the North-South divide, there remains no starker illustration of this gap than the disparity in transport funding.

in spite of the Government’s many promises to narrow the North-South divide, there remains no starker illustration of this gap than the disparity in transport funding.

As the Commons Transport Committee acknowledged yesterday, even by the Government’s own figures, transport spending per head in London is more than twice that in the English regions, including Yorkshire.

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It was in an attempt to rectify this discrepancy that the Government initiated a new system for distributing Whitehall cash to the regions with local enterprise partnerships bidding for money for key transport and infrastructure projects.

Yet, as the Commons committee’s research suggests, it should not necessarily be assumed that this will automatically narrow the funding gap. On the contrary, it may make the situation worse, with money going to those LEPs that are better organised and which put together the most impressive bids, even though these will not necessarily represent those areas of the country where investment is most needed.

In addition, with the emphasis placed so firmly on competition, there is the danger that those LEPs putting in failed bids will thereby waste a great deal of badly needed local money.

Of course, one of the Government’s objectives in setting up this scheme was to encourage LEPs to become efficient and effective as quickly as possible and to make it clear that the rewards are there for those who do so.

The overall aim, however, has to be the provision of transport infrastructure in those areas that need it most, Yorkshire being one.

It is not enough for central government to set the competition in motion, sit back and assume the job is done. It is good that Whitehall is at last allowing the regions to make decisions, but it has to ensure that its chosen method of doing so is producing the results.

Best in business

Search for Yorkshire excellence

WHEN A region’s economy is on the up and up, it is all too easy to ignore the individual success stories and to fail to recognise the unsung heroes who play key roles in driving the region’s recovery.

This is particularly the case when, as with the Yorkshire and Humber region, the economy draws its strength from its sheer diversity across a vast range of sectors, from construction to manufacturing and from healthcare to financial services.

The clear need to highlight some of the successes which might otherwise go unnoticed is the prime reason why The Yorkshire Post launched its Excellence In Business Awards, now in their ninth year and, like the Yorkshire economy itself, going from strength to strength.

The awards are open to companies across the region, of all shapes and sizes, and their success in highlighting the inspirational work being done in all sectors of industry has earned the backing of some of the most successful businesses in Britain, such as DLA Piper, Goldman Sachs, PwC and Yorkshire Bank among others.

The strength of Yorkshire’s recovery is indicated by the fact that, after being badly hit by the slump, the economy has grown at the same rate as London’s over the past year, according to recent figures.

It is now time, then, to honour some of the architects of this recovery and all those who believe they are worthy of nomination should get their entries in as soon as possible so that they can achieve the recognition they deserve.

Opening up

Time for a rural reconnection

OVER the past 200 years, Britain’s transformation from a nation that lived off the land – where nearly every aspect of daily life was governed by the seasons and the agricultural calendar – to a largely urban economy, has come at a price.

According to a recent survey, one in three children has never heard a cow moo, while many adults are unaware that the strawberries we eat in the summer are grown in this country.

To many of Britain’s city-dwellers, food is available all year round and has no relevance to the seasons, while the countryside is something glimpsed briefly during trips from one town to another.

Time, then, to seize the opportunity to reconnect with rural Britain by taking advantage of Open Farm Sunday this coming weekend, when hundreds of farms will open their gates to the public to show just what this country can offer in terms of fresh produce and to demonstrate that animals can exist outside the confines of the TV set.