Jon Trickett: £1bn '˜bung' for Northern Ireland shows May's priorities

theresa May and Arlene Foster's Parliamentary deal shortchanges Yorkshire, says Labour MP Jon Trickett.theresa May and Arlene Foster's Parliamentary deal shortchanges Yorkshire, says Labour MP Jon Trickett.
theresa May and Arlene Foster's Parliamentary deal shortchanges Yorkshire, says Labour MP Jon Trickett.
NOW we have proof of what we have always suspected: in the eyes of the Tories, Yorkshire counts for little.

Ten MPs in Northern Ireland clearly have the leverage which 53 Yorkshire MPs lack. They’ve been given £1bn in extra money for Northern Ireland. That cash is going to schools, hospitals, broadband and other infrastructure.

The reason why? It is because the Democratic Unionists will allow the Prime Minister to cling on to power. Their ten MPs can give the Tories a wafer-thin majority so Theresa May’s failing Government can limp on. And their price? Each of them is worth £100m to the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Yorkshire gets nowt.

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But this amounts to a fundamental breach in the way our country is meant to work. For decades, public expenditure was spent according to how needy an area was. Now the money is being spent to preserve a single person in office.

I don’t argue that Northern Ireland has no needy areas
which ought to be funded. 
After seven years of austerity, you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere that doesn’t
need a bit more from the Government. But Yorkshire equally ought to be receiving additional funding.

Our county has been held
back for too long. We have got so much potential – brilliant universities, natural resources and first-class people. And we were one of the places that helped build the wealth of the country through the Industrial Revolution. But for the past few decades, we haven’t been given the opportunity to thrive as we should.

Let me explain a symptom of this: each person working in London creates almost £44,000 in added value every year on average. In Yorkshire, we create less than half of that. So, for the amount of wealth created by an average worker in London in a year, the average Yorkshire worker has to work two years. It’s roughly the same in Northern Ireland too.

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And in both Northern Ireland and Yorkshire, our average weekly wage is the same – £420. In London it is £620. There’s clearly a gap that must be addressed.

We could narrow that gap with investment. Giving the economy a boost creates more jobs and increases wages for everyone. It reduces welfare spending because people are lifted out of poverty wages.

Yet, in London, per person, more is spent on education, on healthcare and on infrastructure. For health, 25 per cent more is spent on each Londoner than each of us in Yorkshire. There’s a similar gap for Northern Ireland’s NHS. Schooling is the same.

Don’t get me wrong: I am absolutely in favour of a cash injection into the hospitals and classrooms of Northern Ireland. It will save lives and provide children with the opportunities they deserve. This deal will provide a minimum of £250m extra for health, and a boost
of £50m to relieve pressures
on education in Northern Ireland.

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But in Hemsworth, the constituency I represent, schools are considering moving to a four-day week because of cuts, NHS services are being lost and waiting lists are longer than ever. A former mining area, the jobs available to young people are zero-hours and precarious contracts, in warehouses or call centres. Those I represent haven’t seen large investment in the area in decades.

So amongst these secret back-room negotiations, where was the idea of fair funding? Where was the idea that the Government cares just as must about someone with cancer in Belfast as someone in Badsworth? May claimed there was no “magic money tree” for funding public services, but now there is as long as the Prime Minister wants it enough!

Our country has a settlement by which if more is spent in one nation, that spending is reflected in other areas. If May kept to the rules, this deal should also see £68bn allocated to the rest of the UK.

So where is a deal for Yorkshire? Where’s the deal to help struggling schools in Scotland? Or cash for more investment in Wales? Our country is meant to spend money on the basis of need. It’s never been done perfectly, but such a blatant flouting of the rules shows just how little Theresa May cares about giving money to those who need it.

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This bung deal makes clear that this Government only
cares about regions outside of London when it feathers their own nest.

But we can stand up to a Government that hoards power and wealth in the capital with more devolution. A unified voice for Yorkshire means we could be heard loud and clear across Britain. We could take on a centralised establishment that cares little for regions far away from them. Until then, situations like this can continue. Yorkshire must come together and insist that we are heard.