• Seb Lowe

The North South Divide: A Plea for Devolution

The North South divide in the UK is the starkest example of wealth disparity within a nation since the wall came down in Germany, 1989. An opinion voiced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham at a recent public seminar hosted by the Northern Public Law Forum, in partnership with the University of Liverpool.

It is hardly a surprise that a bureaucratic system based in the South disproportionately benefits the South. The very rules entrenched by HM Treasury’s ‘Green Book’, that dictates the spending of public money, prioritises returns on investment over a 30-year period. By its very nature this favours further investment in areas with the highest economic prosperity – until these rules are changed, the problem will continue to worsen.

The indicators of the existence of this divide are as clear as day: economic output per head, life expectancy, government spending per head and access to education are all higher in the South than the North.

It should be a source of national outrage that such disparity has been allowed to continue for so long in this country; this is a problem that has existed for centuries, and will continue to do so until the public demands the government makes the vital changes that are long overdue.

The UK2070 Commission, called for a national renewal fund along the lines of the German East-West reunification strategy, to rebalance the economy over a 25-year period. Furthermore, the Commission calls for ‘much greater devolution of powers and funding’. Complex localised issues have arisen in different areas due to years of underfunding and neglect; these issues can no longer be solved in Whitehall alone.

The administration run by Burnham is perhaps the best example of the potential effectiveness of devolution to local authorities as it allows resources to be directed to where they are needed most. In the case of Manchester, this has been tackling its huge problem of homelessness and drastically improving transport links throughout the combined authority. Further devolution to local authorities, adequate funding to the neglected North and Johnson’s pledge to ‘level up’ the country must materialise under this government.

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