South Yorkshire civic leaders launch expansive 'Plan for the North'

South Yorkshire leaders launched a Plan for the North today which highlights the massive gap between government promises and its actions on levelling up.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 5:21 pm

MPs, council leaders, mayors, peers, academics and business representatives from across the region were brought together to discuss the new research, which details the scale of the challenge and practical steps needed to unleash the North’s full potential.

Speaking at the launch, Dan Jarvis, South Yorkshire Mayor and Barnsley Central MP, said: “If you live in Barnsley, you’re much more likely to be hungrier, poorer and sicker than someone living in Belgravia.

“This deep-seated inequality is a moral disgrace, and it’s holding the whole of our country back.

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Sir Steve Houghton.
Sir Steve Houghton.

“The question of how we tackle this inequality – and unlock the North’s enormous economic and social potential – sits right at the heart of the debate around what levelling up should look like in practice.

“Our Northern communities need a coherent plan; the investment to underpin it; and the local leadership to make it work on the ground. The Plan for the North is a step towards realising that ambition.”

The report was commissioned by councillor Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, Mr Jarvis and Ros Jones, the mayor of Doncaster and is an independent, professional assessment by professors Steve Fothergill and Tony Gore from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professor Fothergill said: “There is clear evidence that the North’s economy is capable of reinvention but too many places continue to struggle with high levels of deprivation and worklessness, and the prosperity gap with London and the South is as wide as ever.

Ros Jones.

“Despite the high political profile of levelling up, there is little if any new money on the table and a big worry that what is available will be spread too thinly across the whole country. As Plan for the North explains, delivering genuine levelling up requires sustained action on a broad front.”

South Yorkshire leaders said the key elements required to level up the North are: a coherant long-term plan with measurable goals and a locally adapted strategy; powers as well as money; long-term, reliable and genuinely transformative spending; and action across a broad front, for example investment in rail infrastructure is critical but support for business, education, skills and public services are also vital.

The plan was sent to the Prime Minister with the backing of more than 40 council leaders and metro mayors.

Sir Houghton said: “The North needs a 20-year strategy that sets out the short, medium and long-term actions. Over that period, we must have a consistent policy and investment plans that fund public services adequately and recognise the deprivation that has occurred in areas like Barnsley through lack of proper investment from the government.”

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP

Mayor Jones added: “Our Plan for the North sets out clearly what we expect from the government and we need them to act and act quickly. Government speaks of being committed to levelling up. This is now the time for government to commit to the level of funding required.”

Read the plan here: https://sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PLAN-FOR-THE-NORTH-final.pdf