Should the government simply give up on Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool and Hull? In a leader titled City slickers, The Economist argues that these towns are trapped in a spiral of decline and attempts to 'save' them are futile:
'Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool, Hull and many others were in trouble even before the financial crisis. These days their unemployment rates are roughly double the national average, and talented young people are draining away (see article). Their high streets are thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty.'
Their solution? Pay people to relocate to successful areas:
'Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them. That means helping them to commute or move to places where there are jobs—and giving them the skills to get those jobs'
Although somewhat insensitive to the people living there, the article makes a valid point. Some areas of Britain have been in decline for decades, and it's a problem no government seems able to solve. Take a look at this interactive tool from the Office of National Statistics on how the regional gross value added (economic value of goods/services from an area) has changed for the places mentioned above. Tyneside, for example, has seen its regional value per head actually slide since 1997:
There is also a question about the Labour Party's role in this long-term economic decline. As the Economist says, successive Labour governments have tried to help these towns by propping them up with piles of public money. In my home town of Gateshead, this can be seen with the Baltic art centre or Sage music complex (pictured above). Both are fantastically beautiful and lovely additions to the area, but they don't make an economic revival.
That's why, in the latest Spectator debate, we're asking why the North keeps voting Labour when Labour is arguably to blame for many of the region's problems. With a panel including David Skelton (a key Tory campaigner on expanding the party's appeal) and one of the North East's longest serving Labour figures, Baroness Quin, it should be a rigorous debate on who is responsible for the North's problems and what the future holds. Book now!