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It will take much longer to ‘level up’ the UK – POLITICO




Brian Groom is a former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Times and author of “Northerners: A History, from the Ice Age to Current” (HarperNorth).

The northern part of England, once home to textile mills, coal mines, shipyards, and steel mills that led the Industrial Revolution, is once again drawing attention.

Now a key proving ground for regeneration, where developed countries still grapple with the future of the region, will have important political and economic consequences for the UK.

Countries have been trying to revitalize former industrial areas for decades, but results have been mixed. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), since the late 1980s, regional disparities within developed countries have been increasing. Especially in England, plans to revive Northern England date back to the 1920s. And while some programs have had partial and temporary benefits, they have not prevented the relative decline of the region overall.

The North’s share of Britain’s economic output has shrunk from 30% after World War I to about 20% behind today’s London and southeastern developments. Nevertheless, the northern economy is still larger than countries like Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Sweden, and a poor performance will stagnate the UK economy as a whole.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite some skepticism, has promised to level the UK economy with the largest geographic gaps in productivity, salaries, skills and health. Rising inflation, pressures on living standards, the aftermath of the Ukraine war and Britain’s attempts to build its future outside the European Union make it a challenge.

Along these lines, the Johnsons government has set ambitious medium-term goals. A recent white paper proposed 12 missions, including a pledge to increase employment and productivity in all parts of the UK by 2030. .

The goal of the paper was widely welcomed, but critics warned that it would be difficult to achieve due to a lack of detailed implementation, lack of funding, and a cautious approach to delegation.

The Johnsons Conservatives made a major breakthrough in the traditionally Labor Party voting North in the last general election of 2019. Almost half of their gains were the so-called Redwall seats in northern, central and northeastern Wales. And to keep these seats, Johnson convinces northern voters that the economy is changing.

But doing so will be complicated by the UK leaving the EU.

The EU regional program is dedicated to a variety of projects, including Liverpools Echo Arena and Manchester’s National Football Museum, corporate centres, technical centres, vocational training, housing and broadband improvements, and environmental and renewable energy projects. funded. And while the government is replacing those funds with the Common Prosperity Fund, the Northern think tank still complains it’s short for the next three years.

But while it’s really worthwhile, neither EU plans nor the UK government’s revitalization efforts have closed the economic gap.

Can other European countries provide useful lessons?

Undoubtedly, the most remarkable revival effort of modern times has been the revival of East Germany.

At the time of reunification in 1990, the output per worker was about 60% of the old West Germany level, but now it is 85%. Implemented programs include welfare expenditures, infrastructure and business support. Crucially, there was inter-party support and the plan was designed to last for decades.

Of course, German unification was an exception. The cost is estimated to have reached $2 trillion, partially funded by solidarity taxes on German adults. The UK’s 4.8 billion level up fund and 3.6 billion towns fund seem too small to compare. And it’s unlikely we’ll have the same resources as Germany.

Another question is whether sufficient powers and funds will be handed over to the mayor and parliament. The white paper invites nine English-speaking regions to apply for mandated transactions, and some current mayors in regions such as Greater Manchester and West Midlands will be provided with additional rights similar to those of London.

However, there is little financial autonomy here. Over the past decade, central government subsidies to Congress have fallen by 37% in real terms, according to the Institute for Government think tank.

But it’s not an entirely grim picture of North Korea. Major cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool still have poverty problems, but have revived almost unpredictably in the 1980s.

All of these achievements have to do with partnerships between local politicians and businesses and, to some extent, central government. And while former mills, coalfields and seaside towns are more difficult to revive and may require different policies, the same types of partnerships appear to be essential.

Until now, Britain’s regenerative policy has been plagued with reckless plans that are cut and changed with each change of government, even the prime minister. Johnsons’ level up comes after rebalancing and David Cameron’s Northern Powerhouse.

But the people who live and work in the area know best what the area needs. And a successful North Korean revival must include public-private partnerships, significant investments, long-term planning, inter-party support, central government consent, and local autonomy.

Northern England has contributed greatly to the world economy and culture through engineers such as Richard Arkwright, inventor of the water frame for cotton spinning and developer of mill systems, and social reformers such as Josephine and engineers such as George Stephenson, father of railroads. Butlers, suffragists like Emmeline Pankhurst, writers like Bronts and William Wordsworth.

North Korea knows what is best for it, and it also knows that its future should not be left to its politicians alone. A real revival will not happen unless it is accompanied by the talent, energy and hard work of the Northerners.




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