The North is ill, angry and ignored. Its scream for action among the neglected voters across the region, demonstrated by the EU referendum result, has once again been pushed under the carpet as party politics instead looks inward. Meanwhile the country suffers as the North becomes less-healthy, less-educated, more disconnected, less productive - and left behind from the rest of the UK. This is an outrageous state of affairs and goes against everything we know about how to grow a successful country. In a post-brexit economy when we need solutions, not more problems, the North and other neglected regions offer a real opportunity for economic growth. But before we realise this growth here are three entrenched problems we need to fix: 1. Less cash for GPs
It doesn’t take much digging to discover why the North is angry - the North gets less money for its GPs meaning a sicker population gets worse care. North/South health inequality is getting worse, deepening each generation with people dying younger and becoming sicker earlier. 2. Less cash for schools From the very beginning of life inequality causes problems. Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s report released last month showed a quarter of secondary schools in the North are rated by Ofsted as inadequate - the regulator’s lowest rating - or requiring improvement and its pupils are a grade behind their Southern counterparts by the time they reach GCSE level. 3. Less cash for infrastructure The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report at the end of last year demonstrated Britain is in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of growing inequality. It suggests the North is £6 billion a year underfunded in public spending compared to London. Even when HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse initiatives are taken into account, more than half of planned transport spend will go to London. The anger of the North is righteous and it affects all – it makes Britain poorer as a whole. I’ve travelled for five years across the North, London, UK and internationally and seen first-hand the North’s vibrant economy but it needs the right tools to realise its potential.
To make the UK more productive we need the regions to work more effectively, for them to do that they need better health, education and connectivity. The Industrial Strategy Commission report in November last year showed across the EU most capitals produce around 1.2-1.8% of national GDP. In the UK London (excluding the South East) produces over 5.2%.
IMF figures show global economic growth rates stagnate at around £38,000 GDP per capita – the USA is at £41,500, Germany £35,631, and the UK at £33,386. London’s GDP at £33,257 is near the stagnation value, however the rate in the North of England is just £16,716. If we grew the North’s GDP rate to the UK average we would have added £44bn in real terms to UK GPD. Why is this important? Because it is harder to increase productivity in an already-over saturated growth environment. How do you increase regional productivity? Report after report demonstrates it is through investing in infrastructure, education and health. We have a population of over 15 million people in the North of England, 25% of the UK’s population. Yet huge parts of that population is left to suffer – it is ill, poor and depressed, no wonder we have a productivity gap of over £4 per person in the north Vs the South. What is it going to take to get this country to move from rhetoric to investment and policy change? We need a fundamental shift from the ideal that the North is calling for money to bail it out – to the realisation that investing in the North is key to growing the UK.