Posts Tagged ‘regeneration’

Stronger In or Vote Leave: The view from the café

18/03/2016, 04:46:08 PM

In the second of a series looking at the views of people from outside of the political bubble, on the EU referendum, Lucy Ashton gets the perspective from a local café.

In a Barnsley café, three woman are chatting about the EU referendum over a pot of Yorkshire Tea.

Brussels may seem a world away from this backstreet café but the referendum is definitely a pressing issue for Jane, Donne and Chloe, three colleagues at a respected, successful South Yorkshire company.

Jane, a company director, says she wants to know all the implications as an individual, as an employer and as a member of the business community.

“The EU touches on every single aspect of life, so much of our legislation is created by Europe,” she says, sipping her tea.

“If you look at the Working Time Directive – what would be the consequences if we left the EU? Would that piece of legislation continue? Would the Government have to start afresh and make it a new British law? Would the cost of implementing any new legislation be colossal?

“Britain pays £35 million into the EU daily, which I know some people are unhappy about, but Barnsley and South Yorkshire has also received a huge amount of European funding for regeneration.

“I have a lot of questions but don’t feel they are being answered. My worry is the issues are so complex, they will wash over everyone and people will vote for Boris Johnson because they like his hair or some other daft reason.”

Chloe, who is 19, voted for the first time in the 2015 General Election and is looking forward to voting again but is undecided.

“It seemed much easier to decide with the General Election as there were very definite political parties with manifestos and if you wanted to, you could speak to candidates directly,” she says, nibbling on a Yorkshire ham sandwich.

“With the referendum, I honestly don’t know which way to vote as no one has explained the consequences if we leave. There doesn’t seem to be any straight forward information, no one has drawn up a list of what will happen if we stay or go.”

Donna nods. “Every time you make a major decision in life you can read the details, take advice and weigh up the pros and cons yet with something as serious as the referendum, there doesn’t seem to be any information at all.

“There are huge consequences yet the issue has been really badly communicated and there are so many unanswered questions.

“Along with the impact on Britain, what would happen to other countries if we pulled out? Would Greece collapse completely? Would Germany become a super power? Should we have a responsibility to other countries?”

As they order another round of tea, Jane sums up the general feeling. “It’s frightening to think in four months’ time everyone will have to make a momentous decision that will affect not just Britain, but the whole of Europe.”

Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former Political Editor

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England’s coastal towns need Labour. We mustn’t forget about them

09/01/2015, 11:24:01 AM

by Nathan Bennet

The Labour party should aim to represent coastal towns across the whole of Southern and Eastern England.

We hold seats in Southampton and Plymouth. Many of our target seats are there – Brighton, Hastings, Great Yarmouth, to name just a few. But I’d go further and argue that there’s a case for Labour representation well outside of our usual battlegrounds.

First, let’s debunk the general myth some permeate that there isn’t really a case for Labour in southern England outside our target seats. Bin the North-South divide – the real world is far more complicated.

Look at wages: Labour’s Southern Taskforce have mapped data from the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. We’ve shown that right round the coast of Southern and Eastern England, average wages are below the national average. There are 43 coastal constituencies here where a higher proportion of people earn less than the living wage than the national average.

And it’s not always in the places you’d expect. In Torridge, West Devon average wages are just over £15,000 a year – £7,000 less than the national average. 38.6% of workers don’t earn a living wage. A report by Sheffield Hallam University and CRESR highlighted the dependency of much of the coast on seaside tourism. It employs 140,000 people in the South and East, and towns like Salcombe, Fowey, Southwold, New Quay, and Aldeburgh are heavily dependent on it. Yes they’re jobs, but they’re often seasonal and low paid, meeting few aspirations and offering few chances to get on

Rebalancing these local economies is as important here as in declining former industrial tows. The coalition’s reliance on market forces clearly isn’t delivering. The southern and eastern coastal communities, need an active government, willing to devolve power and resources, reforming the banks to support small business, delivering on real improvements in broadband, and tackling persistent failings in many schools that leave too many children poorly qualified and means that, even in regions of high HE participation, children from the poorer areas are missing out.


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Scrapping RDAs has made Osborne’s task harder

06/12/2014, 07:27:27 PM

By Kevin Meagher

As the Tories’ main political strategist, George Osborne knows only too well that winning the next election means convincing people they’re getting better off, or soon will be. In the next six months, his task is to make sure the warm rays of economic prosperity are felt across all parts of the country.

Yet as the dust settles on the Autumn Statement, recovery remains stubbornly uneven and tackling Britain’s asymmetric economy, split between a galloping London and South East and, at best, a cantering North and Midlands, looks as forlorn a prospect as it has for the past three decades.

Yet the bodies set up by Labour in 1998 to narrow these deep economic disparities – the nine English regional development agencies – were in coalition ministers’ crosshairs from day one. To Conservative eyes, RDAs were quintessentially old Labour. The state getting involved in promoting economic growth.

While the concept of “regions” was an unwelcome affectation, dreamt up by John Prescott in all his pomp running the sprawling Department of Environment, Transport and Regions.

In fact, David Cameron used his first major speech as prime minister to herald a different approach to driving local growth. It mattered little that the boards of the RDAs were private sector-led. Or that there was strong business support for retaining the northern agencies in particular. Or, indeed, that they were actually succeeding in their task of boosting growth. (In 2009, PriceWaterhouse Coopers calculated that the economic value they generated was equivalent to £4.50 for every £1 of public money invested).

But the RDAs fate was sealed because the Lib Dems didn’t think much of them either. Business secretary Vince Cable suggested scrapping them himself in a paper for the Reform think tank before the 2010 election. So when the “bonfire of the quangos” was lit, the English RDAs were the Guy Fawkes effigy placed right at the top of the pyre.

Since then, ministers have created a total of 39 local enterprise partnerships – effectively mini-RDAs but without the budgets – or the experienced staff – to drive local growth. This disjointed, stop-start approach, just as the economy was going through the bumpy 2010-12 period, was one of the more politically indulgent things the government has done.

And, potentially, one of the more politically costly.


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