'It is insane to have so much power and so much public money concentrated in the grasp of so few people'

Should Parliament devolve powers to the North? Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Should Parliament devolve powers to the North? Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
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Today, The Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson will attend the IPPR North State Of The North conference where he has been asked to contribute to a discussion about devolution, mayors and the role the regional media can play in shaping policy and thinking when it comes to the fortunes of the North of England.

In a speech ahead of the conference, at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle, he will share some thoughts around what he it is he wants to talk about alongside other panel members.

James Mitchinson is addressing the IPPR State of the North Conference today. Credit: Gary Longbottom.

James Mitchinson is addressing the IPPR State of the North Conference today. Credit: Gary Longbottom.

In his speech, he says: "First of all, I’m sure most people here would agree it is insane to have so much power and so much public money concentrated in the grasp of so few people who live and work so far away from where the money is most needed.

"Bear in mind the net effect of the long-term neglect that we have suffered up here has led to some parts of the North now enduring levels of deprivation on par with communist East Germany at the point of unification in 1990. That is nothing short of a national scandal that very few people are responsible for, yet it affects so many.

"It doesn’t help, either, that the majority of those people receiving and distributing billions of pounds of our money would probably think a Stottie is something a GP should treat with rubber gloves.

"Yes, I’m being facetious in order to make a serious point but we in the North - under the banner of Power Up The North - have been forced to come together as one in order to take the fight to the Establishment, yet the North of England is home to the most wonderfully diverse, rich and proud regional identities you’re likely to find in such a relatively small place anywhere on the planet - but to understand and appreciate what it is we’re proud of you have to live and breathe our culture, language and shared histories.

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"You can’t begin to understand how to make a difference up here if you’ve spent a lifetime living cocooned by an elitist forcefield."

He also touches on his view that for devolution to work well, it has to be done at scale.

He says: "The Sheffield deal just done is a good start but does not extend to policing or healthcare because - in truth - it isn’t a big enough deal. That’s why I’ve long been an advocate of a single mayor for all of Yorkshire.

"Put those two things - healthcare and policing - up against any other aspects of the South Yorkshire deal’s devolved powers - skills or housing, for example - and I’d wager your ordinary person would want more say over the way their communities are policed or their loved ones cared for in their hour of need than they do skills and housing policy. But, as I say, it’s a start.

"I also feel deep nervousness about the obsession with devo-deals being big-city centric. I understand that cities like Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester are the economic engine rooms of the North, but Yorkshire’s rural economy alone - let alone the rural economy of the North rolled into one - contributes upwards of £17bn to the UK economy each year and in my view should be treated with the same level of care, respect and strategic ambition as any city region."

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There is also the issue of what role the media has to play in improving the fortunes of the North.

He adds: "Without The Yorkshire Post the Northern Powerhouse Minister would not have a seat at the Cabinet table - the highest decision making forum in the land. That was something we felt was important and made it our business to call for it and press it home time and time again with Government last year, and I was delighted when it finally happened. Jake Berry - the Northern Powerhouse Minister tweeted to me only recently: my seat at the Cabinet table is as much yours (the people of the North) as it is mine. That was decent of him, for sure, but it’s more than just symbolic. We now have a voice inside the tent.

"Also, without the Power Up The North Campaign - jointly led by The Yorkshire Post, Manchester Evening News and a powerful coalition of around 40 other other regional and local newspapers - the North would not be the Government priority it appears to be today. It helps, of course, that key heartlands turned blue at the last general election.

"But I’d ask you to remember when talking about us - “The Media” - that we are not a mystical power. The journalism - underpinned by diligent research and thoughtful writing - don’t happen by magic. The media that made Power Up The North happen would be better labelled, people. Concerned people.

"We’re just Northerners who live and work in the North of this country who are as fed up of being treated as second class citizens by a system that has for too long served too few as everyone else is. The challenge for all of us is translating that sense of anger and frustration into civil lobbying and constructive dialogue with Government."