it GOES without saying that the remit of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – brought into focus by the proposal to close its Sheffield regional office in 2018 with the loss of 200 jobs – should be reviewed.
After all, this Whitehall Ministry is a slightly incongruous institution when every Government department should be pro-business and when so much of its work already dovetails with the Treasury and also the Department for Education and Skills.
Yet it will take a brave politician to axe a Whitehall establishment, whether it be the so-called ‘Bis’ department or the separate Ministries which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to enjoy in this era of devolution.
Yet, given this, the Government appears to be putting London’s interests before those of the rest of the country. Despite David Cameron coming to power and promising to deploy a greater proportion of civil servants to the regions, precisely the opposite has happened according to Labour MP Louise Haigh who also cited the 500 HMRC jobs which have also been lost in Sheffield.
And it also leads to the now inevitable questions about the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse – it seems odd that the business department’s only base in Yorkshire is being closed when Ministers are committed to narrowing the North-South divide.
Given this follows the mishandling of the recent floods, job losses in the steel industry – Sheffield Forgemasters has received a £30m bailout – and evidence that Yorkshire is still the ‘poor relation’ when it comes to infrastructure spending, Ministers need to find ways to regain the public’s trust.
Business Minister Anna Soubry, summoned to Parliament to explain the latest decision, is quite right when she says that the Government is duty-bound spend taxpayers’ money “wisely, efficiently and effectively”. No one will dispute this. What they do question, however, is why London appears exempt from this mantra – and why the Government is not looking to save costs by relocating staff out of the capital, where living and office costs are at a premium, and to a region like Yorkshire which crying out for investment and backing if it is to fulfil its potential. Once again, it appears that double standards are in play.
A father’s betrayal: The prisoner who found her voice
NOW that her evil Maoist cult leader father Aravindan Balakrishnan is, thankfully, behind bars, it is particularly poignant that Katy Morgan-Davies should be looking to rebuild her life in Leeds.
Effectively held prisoner for three decades, she clung to the dream of having a Yorkshire accent because of books like The Secret Garden which were a lifeline and salvation while she changed her name by deed poll to Katy because of the Katy Perry song Roar about a woman finding her voice.
Yet, while she was denied her voice for so long by her sinister and evil father, her eloquence is quite remarkable and it is striking that her spirit never faltered during what was a pitiful existence. In forgiving her father for his crimes against human decency, the 32-year-old drew inspiration from the example set by the late Nelson Mandela, who says prisoners will never be truly free if they cling onto any lingering bitterness.
And she can be assured of the support of the Yorkshire charity Palm Cove which helps victims of violence. Though this is, thankfully, an extreme example, this heart-wrenching story of betrayal can only help raise the profile of such rehabilitation centres and their enduring importance.
End of the road: A symbol of British excellence
IF ever there was a symbol of British engineering excellence, it was the iconic Land Rover Defender, which ceased production yesterday. Drawn up by ingenious designers on a beach, it became such a reliable – and classless – workhorse that it was embraced by not only farming families but also the military. The vehicle even became the Queen’s preferred mode of transport on the Royal estates while former SAS sergeant Andy McNab spent two months living in the back of a Defender while on active service in the Middle East.
Yet, while economics played a part, it also appears that difficulties complying with EU safety and emissions criteria also contributed to Jaguar’s decision. However, given the proximity of the UK referendum on European Union membership, and the public increasingly sceptical of David Cameron’s negotiating skills, it would not be a surprise if the Land Rover Defender went into one last battle – on behalf of ‘Out’ campaigners.