North must be in driving seat

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BUOYED by a housing bubble fuelled by foreign investors and bolstered by disproportionate spending on infrastructure, London and the South East are in prime position to feel the benefits of the economic recovery.

BUOYED by a housing bubble fuelled by foreign investors and bolstered by disproportionate spending on infrastructure, London and the South East are in prime position to feel the benefits of the economic recovery.

The same, however, cannot be said of city regions outside the capital, particularly those in the North. With the jury still out on whether HS2 will deliver the jobs and wealth it is hoped or merely accelerate their migration southwards, the task of rebalancing the economy is one the Government seems determined to shirk.

Lord Hesletine’s visionary No Stone Unturned report was first backed by George Osborne then effectively shelved, with only a fraction of the investment in the first steps toward regional devolution outlined by the Tory peer being signed off.

Leaders of some of England’s largest councils are right to describe the solution they propose – the handing of considerable powers to leading UK cities like Leeds and Sheffield – as representing a more radical constitutional change than separating Scotland from the rest of the country.

This is because, as the Core Cities group points out, it is a move that runs contrary to the centralising tendencies of every government – even one led by a Conservative Party that pledged to reverse the statist policies that took root under Labour.

The HS2 project is already showing how different authorities outside London can work together for their mutual benefit and it is time for the Government to show trust in the ability of politicians in the regions to take central investment and turn it into jobs and growth.

Far from narrowing the North-South divide, all the signs are that it is widening under this coalition. If city regions such as those in Yorkshire are to counter the clout wielded by London and the South East, then it is essential that they are given comparable political and economic powers to deliver a more balanced Britain.

Pay perspective

Police transparency is overdue

THE responsibilities of chief constables should not be under-estimated. As well as protecting the public, they’re responsible for budgets – and workforces – that are comparable with many of Britain’s most successful companies.

As such, they should be paid a salary which is commensurate with their experience and the duties that they are expected to fill. No one would dispute this. But, as public servants, their pay, perks and privileges do need to be transparent.

This became abundantly clear during The Yorkshire Post’s investigations into a number of senior officers, and the financial benevolence that was shown towards them. To its credit, the College of Policing has now responded by publishing the pay and reward details of chief officers on a single website. This openness is both overdue and welcome.

Yet, if there is to be greater accountability of the public sector per se, this mindset needs to extend to other sectors such as education. The reason is the incredulity yesterday after it emerged that a primary school headteacher in London had accrued a salary package worth £230,000. Sir Greg Martin, the executive head of Durand Academy, clearly has outstanding qualities after being knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last year.

However, it is indicative of the lack of financial control governing academies and free schools that one man can be paid nearly £90,000 more than the Prime Minister – and just £50,000 less than the salary of Sheffield-born Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police with responsibility for the whole of London.

University of life

Mother of all political struggles

THAT there is not one mother sitting at David Cameron’s top table of cabinet Ministers is indicative of the growing divide between Britain’s political elite and young families with degrees obtained from the “university of life”.

It is little wonder that 90 per cent of mothers do not trust politicians, the conclusion of the latest Mumdex report compiled by Leeds-based Asda. Why should they when so few Ministers know how childcare works in practice?

Yet it is also a reflection on the extent to which politicians diminish women by categorising them – whether it be Tony Blair’s “Worcester woman”, David Cameron’s “Aldi woman” or referring to senior citizens rather patronisingly as “the grey vote”.

Perhaps female voters would be more amenable to politicians if they were treated as human beings rather than commodities. As such, each of Britain’s leaders now faces the mother of all struggles to win back this lost trust.