Jon Trickett

Hemsworth Labour

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It’s harder up north. This much is generally understood, but what it actually means for people living here, like my constituents, is rarely talked about by political elites or the media. They show little interest in events outside the capital.

Brexit was their wake up call. It revealed a deep frustration from people like us at the failure of policies cooked up in Westminster that did nothing to dampen the impact of the economic devastation caused by deindustrialisation. We needed to change a political system that was not delivering for areas like ours.

But the Brexit being pursued by the Conservatives will not deliver the change the north needs either. The opportunities that Brexit presents are wasted on a party that wants only a race to the bottom. They want to deregulate markets, centralise power and open Britain up to huge businesses at any cost. What the Conservatives lack in imagination they also lack in the competence needed to overcome the challenges ahead, as we are reminded almost daily.  

Many of these challenges are especially relevant to the north. Today’s report from the Institute for Public Policy Research’s “State of the North” show exactly why.

The report tells us that Brexit will have nearly twice the impact on the economy of the north of England as it will on London, primarily as a consequence of northern regions’ greater dependency on EU trade. We’ve not be able to grow our own as much as places down south, so have ended up less independent than them.

But what the IPPR’s report also highlights—and this, I think, is significant—is that by 2030, the dominant age group in the north, in politics and in the economy, will be the millennial generation and their successors. These are the people who hold the key to transforming this for people in our region. They will also bear the brunt of whatever policies are put (or not put) in place over the next few years.

Young people are likely to hold fewer assets and have lower income than their predecessors. We need to give the generation the tools to change this, particularly round here.  

We can start by giving 16 year-olds a vote on the issues that will come to shape their lives—as Labour recently tried to do in the House of Commons, only to be stopped by a Conservative Party set on wrecking democracy least they be defeated.

But more than anything, what we need is a transformative politics that sets out to fundamentally reshape the UK and the North in particular. The aim of this politics should be to democratise wealth, abolish inequality and give people a real say in the decisions that matter—especially those excluded from the market and ignored by politicians, as young people so often are.

I want devolution to be a huge part of this. It is key to this and is crucial to unlocking the North’s potential.

As I’ve often said, we in the North know what’s best for our communities, and the terms of any further devolution should determined by local needs and desired outcomes, not those set by central government. Devolution should also offer an opportunity to challenge dominant approaches to policy making, not reinforce them, as it tends to do in its current form. So, devolution, yes, but the right kind of devolution.

But without proper investment, devolution will have limited impact. We need the power to make decisions, but we need the resources to realise their potential. Infrastructure investment in the north, for example, is many times lower per head than it is in London. This has to change.

This then should be the target for politicians like me. We must meet the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit but we can go someway to dramatically rebalancing the economy in favour of the north, and in favour of the many, not the few. 

I want young people and the North to benefit from Brexit

  It’s harder up north. This much is generally understood, but what it actually means for people living here, like my constituents, is rarely talked about by political elites or...

People round here work hard. The wealth of our nation was built on work from people like us. 

Yet we’re still being pushed behind by a government that cares little for areas outside of London and the South East. There’s been no meaningful investment round here for decades.

Now we’ve found out that 3 in 10 workers across our area are paid less than the Real Living Wage. The Living Wage is calculated as enough to live on, and is above the national minimum wage.

It’s not right. People work hard, but many big firms pay people too little, even though they could afford to pay them more. And without the investment that makes business more productive, small firms can’t pay people a living wage, even if they wanted to.

The Government has to put this right as soon as possible. We need more investment now.

It's Living Wage Week

People round here work hard. The wealth of our nation was built on work from people like us.  Yet we’re still being pushed behind by a government that cares little...

 

As my constituents know, I’ve been fiercely critical of the way the HS2 project has unfolded in our area. The proposed M18 route, which runs from the West Midlands to Leeds, will result in the demolition of homes and business in our area—with many more facing considerable disruption and devaluation.

 

We’re fighting back against the planned route but there’s a sense of uncertainty in the community, which is made worse by HS2 Ltd’s lack of consultation and the difficulty we’ve faced in having a useful dialogue.

 

At our last meeting with Paul Maynard MP, the Conservative Minister responsible for HS2, one of the key issues we raised was how the North is being treated worse than the South when it comes to tunneling. Just 2% of the Eastern Leg of Phase 2 is tunnel, compared to 21% of the Phase 2 Western Leg and 29% of Phase 1.

 

The North, it seems, isn’t worth that extra investment, and the uneven development and benefits of HS2 are stark.

 

I was reminded of this again last week when reading the news that Transport for London is planning the construction of two more London Overground stations at Old Oak Common Lane and Hythe Road, both of which will be on the HS2 route.

 

Now, I don’t blame Transport for London (TFL) for planning these stations. As the National Audit Office noted last year, “Local authorities . . .  are responsible for driving regeneration and local growth benefits” from HS2, and according to TFL, this redevelopment has the potential to deliver 25,500 new homes and 65,000 jobs.

 

But will we in the North, and in Yorkshire in particular, also see such local transport investment—totalling 100s of millions of pounds?

 

Not likely. As was reported earlier this year, the gap between transport infrastructure investment between the Capital and the rest of the UK is huge, with £1,943 being spent per person in London on current or planned projects compared to just £190 for Yorkshire and the Humber. That’s a staggering difference of 10 to 1.

 

With central government cuts crippling councils in the North hardest, and with local authority spending up to 40 per cent lower for regions outside of London, this isn’t likely to change.

 

This doesn’t bode well. As the same National Audit Office report warned, when it comes to HS2, “there is a risk that these wider benefits will not materialise if funding cannot be secured” for additional local redevelopment. We were told that HS2 would solve all our problems, but this silver bullet is looking less shiny by the day.

 

And if our cash-strapped authorities can’t provide the investment, the divide between North and South will only widen. And whatever investment is made will likely be pressured into servicing HS2, at the neglect of meeting people’s urgent transport needs and improving links between many of the North’s great cities.

 

Once again, London steams to the front of the queue for transport investment, and the rest of us are left behind.

HS2: Two new Overground stations may be good for London – but what about us in the North?

  As my constituents know, I’ve been fiercely critical of the way the HS2 project has unfolded in our area. The proposed M18 route, which runs from the West Midlands...


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