Restore pride in Britain's forgotten towns, charity urges

Pride must be restored to Britain’s overlooked towns in order to heal post-Brexit divisions, a Yorkshire-based charity has urged.

Hartlepool, England. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said minimum wage hikes and increases to high-quality apprenticeships are necessary for politicians to win back public support and address the schisms that have emerged since the 2016 referendum.

A “far more ambitious” response is required to attract businesses, improve transport and invest in skills in areas where people have been “locked out of opportunity”, the charity, which is based in York, said.

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The recommendations are based on research suggesting that voters’ priorities are long-standing domestic problems despite Brexit having “monopolised” political debate.

Ambitious policies to bridge the divide between Remain and Leave voters could deliver an electoral boost, according to the research.

The JRF’s executive director, Claire Ainsley, said: “People on low incomes across Britain are frustrated with politicians who fail to act on their concerns. Voters across Britain have told us that ‘politics as usual’ will simply not cut it any more.

“Low-income voters are turning out to vote in greater numbers and are the most likely group to switch their vote. Any party wishing to govern should take their concerns seriously.”

The JRF recommends the first step is for the Government to deliver the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund and ensure it at least matches the 2.4bn euros (£2.2bn) in spending that will be lost from the EU’s structural funds.

Good jobs that provide security are a priority for voters, while employers should beat politicians’ pace by paying real living wages before legislation is enacted, the charity said.

Basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills for all adults are needed as a priority, as is spreading opportunity outside of London with significant investment, it added.

The report comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pleaded with Leave-supporting voters not to back the Brexit Party in a crunch by-election in the Welsh seat of Brecon and Radnorshire yesterday.

Ex-MP Chris Davies lost the seat after being ousted by constituents following his conviction for submitting fake expenses invoices.

However, the Conservative party has backed Mr Davies to fight the seat again despite his conviction.

Clearly concerned that Leave voters could split between the Tories and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, Mr Johnson said: “The Brexit Party cannot deliver Brexit, only the Conservatives can.”

He added that the Liberal Democrats “will do everything they can to stop Brexit” so “if the people of Brecon and Radnorshire want to get Brexit delivered on time, they need to vote for my candidate, Conservative Chris Davies”.

Voters will go to the polls in the crucial by-election tomorrow.