Tory claims of creating a “Northern Powerhouse” have been laid bare as rubbish by a new report which shows that 10 of the UK’s top 12 struggling cities are in the north. Instead the Conservatives have created a northern poorhouse, after imposing 40 per cent spending cuts on the region’s local authorities.
Rochdale, Burnley, Bolton, Blackburn and Hull topped the list of 10 cities suffering from rising unemployment and increased population growth, in a report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and carried out by Newcastle University. Not one city in the south featured in the top 24 of the index.
“This is the latest piece of research to sadly confirm that this government does not have an economic policy or a political vision that can improve lives and boost local communities across the north. Osborne’s cuts have consistently failed, over and over again, to deliver for ordinary people in this country,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
While the government has congratulated itself on devolution deals that give extra powers to northern conurbations, such as in Greater Manchester and the Sheffield City Region, the report demonstrates that even within those areas many communities are being left behind. For instance Rochdale, Bolton and Wigan all appear in the top 12 struggling cities, despite being in Greater Manchester, where funding and powers have already been devolved.
“At the moment the government is devolving ‘power’ to local areas but without the resources so that local authorities and cities can also invest, for example, in housebuilding and public transport. In effect they are just devolving the blame for the cuts in funding and austerity – measures the government is responsible for – that are damaging our economy and people’s living standards,” said Turner.
The study of 74 cities with populations over 100,000, which was based on employment rates, levels of highly-qualified workers, migration rates and the type and amount of jobs available, adds to a growing pile of evidence that Chancellor George Osborne’s northern powerhouse plans are empty promises.
Last year, Osborne’s pledge of delivering £13bn to improve transport in the region was exposed as flimflam, after it was revealed that £5bn had already been allocated and little of the remaining £8bn was actually fresh investment.
The JRF also noted that the central government was hovering up any financial benefits of getting people into work, leaving local authorities out of pocket and removing their incentive to increase employment. As it stands, local authorities receive just 7p out of every £1 saved from helping someone out-of-work find a living wage job. The central government, on the other hand, receives 80p.
Andy Pike, co-author of the report and professor of Local and Regional Development at Newcastle University, said: “Economic and social conditions in UK cities are diverging and increasingly different. If the commitment to rebalancing in the UK is meaningful then greater policy attention and resources by central and local government needs to be focused upon the particular needs of these cities lagging behind.”
The report found that cities in the south have seen a much stronger growth in full-time equivalent job creation. In the top 12 struggling cities, full-time job creation fell back by -2.1 percent according to the index, compared to growth of 1.9 percent for the national average and 5.4 percent in the top 12 best performing cities.
“The truth is that jobs are being sucked into London where employment is nearly 12 per cent higher than 2010 but much much lower in the rest of the UK. Real wages continue to be worth £2,270 less than in 2008. What is urgently needed, and has been needed, is for public investment to return the economy to sustainable growth that is balanced across the country, and can be used to deliver decent work, with good wages for people,” Turner added.