Region’s MPs back our campaign

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POLITICIANS from across the divide have backed the Yorkshire Post’s calls for a fair deal for the region.

MPs from all three major political parties have pledged to campaign for a prosperous future for Yorkshire after we revealed on Saturday how the chances of tackling the North-South divide are being hit as the region loses out on jobs, homes and public funding.

Stuart Andrew, Tory MP for Pudsey, said: “I’ve been pleased there’s been acknowledgement in the Government that they need to do something – like with the “Y” shape for high-speed rail – but we need to go even further because this divide we’ve had between North and South has been the scourge of successive government and I hope we can start to address it this time.”

Fellow Tory Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “I pay tribute to the Yorkshire Post for its evidence-based approach to representing the needs of Yorkshire.

“I believe that if local authorities, the new Local Enterprise Partnerships, MPs, business and community leaders pull together this Government’s policies will hugely benefit our region.”

Our special investigation revealed that over the past year, the number of people in work in Yorkshire has fallen by 20,000, while there are 100,000 more people working in London. Tens of thousands more people are also in work in the South East and East of England, regions which have traditionally grown faster than ours. Housebuilding is also struggling in this region, while in London it is almost back to 2007 levels.

Yorkshire has also lagged behind the South in transport funding, while millions of pounds of regeneration money earmarked for the region is at risk of being lost because of difficulty finding top-up funding which is required to access it. An unfair funding system also means £1,500 more taxpayers’ money is spent on every Scot than every person in Yorkshire but Ministers have refused demands for a review.

Today’s Business Activity Index from Lloyds TSB shows Yorkshire and Humberside saw the weakest growth of any English region in the second quarter of this year.

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, said: “I fully support this new campaign... As it stands there is a clear disparity between the North and South in a number of areas, not least the job market.

“This is a divide that must be addressed by encouraging businesses to consider Leeds and other northern towns and cities, as potential locations.”

One of the major concerns raised in the region is the lack of a Yorkshire voice now development agency Yorkshire Forward is being scrapped and the role of a Minister for the Region has been dropped. The Government is adamant that its drive for making decisions locally will deliver better results, but there are fears individual cities will not be able to compete against the likes of London, with its Mayor, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which each have Cabinet Ministers championing them.

Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, backed the call for a fair deal: “Until we get the same political clout as Scotland and Wales I can’t see us getting the fair deal for Yorkshire.”

Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh backed our campaign and seized on the threat to tourism because Welcome to Yorkshire faces losing its public funding next April, yet Scotland – with a similar population – will get £38m from its Government to attract visitors.

“Yorkshire Forward is investing £10m in Welcome to Yorkshire this year to boost our visitor economy during the Olympics. However, from April 2012 there will be no funding, due to the Government’s reckless decision to axe Yorkshire Forward.”

Comment: Page 10; Yorkshire’s brand of excellence: Page 11.