Northern Powerhouse 'best bet' to address economic inequality

Back Northern Powerhouse 'best bet' to address economic inequality

Dominic Harrison, director of Public Health and Wellbeing for Blackburn with Darwin Borough Council, spoke to PSE about the Northern Powerhouse and what’s missing for Northern Councils.

I think the Northern Powerhouse has under performed on its promises to date, but it’s still probably the best bet we’ve got to get economic inequality addressed.

One of the big issues is that public sector investment has grown in the South, while the North has lost over £6 billion since 2010. That is not a matter of austerity politics, that’s an issue of austerity economics, the government is spending the money on the public sector, just not equally or fairly, and it makes no sense to distribute public sector resources in that way from a national perspective.

What we need to see in coming years is a reversal of that, where the North gets its fair share of spend for things like Transport and government functions that are going to be devolved back into the UK from the European Union.

There have been some allocations of funding with Northern Powerhouse labels but it’s impossible to tell whether they’re a fair share or not and certainly the IPPR suggests that public sector spend has been un equally spent in the South. In order for the Northern Powerhouse to deliver, the North needs fair shares of the economic cake, some of the devolved capacities from the EU placed in the North, and to look at things like the latest Indices of Deprivation that was published about a month ago, many areas in the North are systematically falling down the league table of deprivation.

When you unpack what is happening, clearly one of the things that’s affecting the Norths position is its health status, so we are seeing that life expectancy is going backwards in the North and morbidity and illness is rising rapidly, both of which are worse in the North than in the South.

Evidence suggests that if we could improve health and wellbeing, we would increase Labour market productivity very easily. So, we need significant investment in disease prevention and disease management, disproportionately allocated to those areas that are suffering.

Because what we are seeing is a lower percentage of people in the Labour market purely because they have a diagnosis of preventable disease, so prevention would make a big difference and would be a more cost-effective, economic investment than many other options than we could consider for economic growth.

I think we want to see a major transformation of our infrastructure which is ageing and inefficient, particularly in Transport, I think the North could lead many areas identified in all political manifestos, including new central government investment in clean technologies, new models of energy and electric transport development.

Brexit, despite dominating political debate, is not the challenge we’re facing, Climate Change is posing an existential challenge and every country in every place is going to have to invest, and that investment is a huge opportunity for the North of England and Northern Powerhouse if it can put the North at the forefront of some for that new technology and new investment, we stand a chance of developing an economy that’s healthy and wealthy for everyone.

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