At today’s APPG for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, of which I am Co-Chair, Treasury Minister, Robert Jenrick, was clear that more work is needed to tackle a generational over-reliance on London and the South East. He said that, whilst investment and political and business leadership in the region is crucial to its economic success, there needs to be a change in mind-set within institutions to recognise the importance of the region.
I agree with the Minister. There is no doubt that Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire has a bright future ahead and I am pleased that the Minister clearly recognised its potential as an engine for growth in the UK. Whilst the right levels of funding are clearly important, what became clear during the meeting was the desire among businesses for clear leadership from the region to take a shared and cross-party vision for the region to the Government.
Mr Jenrick, whose responsibilities at the Treasury include regional devolution and infrastructure, told us that whilst the central Government element of funding for transport in the north is higher than in any other region in the UK and with over 200,000 jobs having been created in the region since 2010, the Government recognises that more is needed to enable Yorkshire to fulfil its potential.
Among the areas he focussed on was the Government’s commitment to ensuring that half of the country has access to superfast broadband by 2025, with the whole country covered in 15 years. He highlighted the importance of this to the region’s rural communities especially. He also spoke of the need to support the region’s cultural industry, especially following Hull’s time as the UK capital of culture.
Sarah Longlands, Director of the think tank, IPPR North, questioned whether the Treasury is unlocking the full potential of the region to the UK economy as a whole. Whilst making the case for greater leadership in the region to represent its interests, she provided the APPG with a series of stark statistics. She said that when central Government spending is added to that by local public/private bodies, transport infrastructure spending now stands at £4,155 per person in London compared to £844 in Yorkshire and the Humber. This is a point I have made repeatedly and will continue to do so until we see a considerable narrowing of this very unfair gap between spending in the North and the South.