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GO SOUTH WEST!

PHILIP PEERS, SDP candidate for Torridge & Tavistock in Devon, says that the right investment in the south west could move the region on from its reliance on tourism and regenerate it for the benefit of the entire nation

By: SDP

 

 

Much is made of the north of England being the neglected half of the country, with London and the south east sucking in the lion’s share of investment. 

It is certainly true that, with both the seat of national government and the engine house of the economy – the London financial service industry – being located in the south east, this region receives the vast majority of public and private investment. 

The north of England has received much interest and initiatives recently to help rebalance regional inequality, and rightly so. We also cannot dismiss the Barnett Formula for Scotland and the outsize investment Northern Ireland receives within the Union.

What though of south west England? Beyond being thought of – at least by those able to afford such things – as a location for a second home or a staycation destination, the rest of the country does not give this part of the kingdom much thought at all. 

Arguably the south west is a tale of two halves as well, with richer cities such as Bristol, Bournemouth and Swindon skewing the figures for the much poorer peninsula cities of Plymouth, Exeter and Truro. It is no surprise that the wealthier and healthier cities of the region are located the further north and east you travel from the south west. The only motorway that gets as far as the south west peninsula ends at Exeter, therefore missing out both Plymouth, a city of approximately 250,000 residents, and the entire county of Cornwall. 

It is noteworthy that in the current financial year the NHS allocated the third highest amount of money per head of population to the south west Intergrated Care Board, at £1,536.  The formula for working this sum of money out is based on various factors that determine the need of the population, poverty being a high indicator of poor health outcomes, and so generating a need for greater funding. With no national strategy for improving the local economy to create greater wealth for the region then the south west will continue to require an outsize proportion of healthcare spending per head of population.

This is the same for education. There are approximately 41,070 pupils in Devon with per pupil funding of £11,823.96. Bradford with a similar number of pupils has £11,765.09 per pupil. Oxfordshire on the other hand has per pupil funding of £11,293.00. Again, we can see that the poorer parts of the nation require greater funding to make up for other inequalities. The same goes to transportation too. The total expenditure on transport per head of capita in the south west is vastly lower than in London – the runaway leader in the UK for this type of investment. The south west has the second lowest expenditure and far below the average investment. 

This is all connected. It should be of no surprise that regions that receive greater funding for transport also receive more in private investment, have wealthier local citizens, healthier citizens and thus require less in healthcare and education investment.

It would be a logical net win to both the south west and the rest of the country for there to be a coherent economic growth strategy providing improved transport infrastructure spending. Along side this should be the roll-out of broadband infrastructure  and the optimisation of the industries in which the south west can excel – tourism, defence, agriculture and fishing.

The largest city in the peninsula, Plymouth, hasn’t had an operational airport for over a decade, with the city council stuck in a dispute with the leaseholder over its desire to build some homes over the site. This will neither assist greatly with the housing crisis, given that it would deliver at best a few hundred homes, nor will it turbo charge the cities economy for tourism. Likewise, the defence industry has seen massive decline for decades with a once proud tradition of shipbuilding reduced to a rump.

Given the current and foreseeable geopolitical turmoil and danger evident to the nation, the government should be investing heavily in the region’s shipyards. There is no reason why South Korea can develop a world class shipbuilding industry for an export market delivering jobs and better lives for its citizens, but our nation cannot. Similarly, in agriculture – where is the strategy for improving the export market conditions or researching technological improvement?

The politics of the south west is currently and overwhelmingly represented by the Conservative Party, but this was not always so, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour enjoying substantial support in recent memory. If a political party can tap into the mood of the region, and provide it with a beacon of hope for the future, the south west could become a bastion of support, and perhaps even a stepping stone to future government. 

 

References:

School funding statistics, Financial year 2022-23 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

Number of pupils in state-funded secondary schools in Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue | LG Inform (local.gov.uk)

20222111 Allocations 2022-23 – ICB Core Services, Primary Medical Care, Running Costs flat v0.7.xlsx (england.nhs.uk)

 

 

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All Comments (2)

  • Britain should adopt a Federal Lander system similar to Germany a complete Decentralised Government system is much healthier outcome than the top down Bureaucratic We currently have it’s the SDP who should be the replacement for the tired 4 useless parties Lib-Lab-Con-SNP

  • So on this the North South divide.is often talked about and well documented however just as well documented but often not talked about is those of us that live South of Bristol.

    I’ve interacted with many a politician who seem to think that the whole of the South is rich and wealthy, however you go past Bristol into Plymouth (my City) and Cornwall and we have poverty and issues comparable to that of Liverpool, Manchester etc.

    The South West does have some wealthy second home owners but your everyday locals aren’t wealthy infact compared to the UK national average of a take home pay of 40k a year Plymouth and Cornwall average out at 31.6 and 31.3 k average per year, infact compare that to Liverpool’s average of £36 k, or Manchester’s Bury of 32.6 K and you ll see that here in the South West far from being this place of super wealthy locals.

    We are well below the national average and have rates similar to some of the places talked up the most in the North South Divide. But that’s my point it’s not a North South Divide it’s a not being central divide the truth is this, the further out from London you get the poorer you tend to get.

    Now that’s a generalisation so it’s not perfect, as for the old Neo Liberal addage of get on your bike I can’t agree with that and I never will. I love my city have a great admiration for my fellow Plymouthians and Cornish banter aside that we enjoy with Cornwall I feel the same about Cornwall.

    I will say that redundancy happens a lot here and we have lots of people on their 3rd or 4th career hard working people who have been reduced to subsisting on what remains of welfare.

    Because despite what some may say those who abuse and fiddle unemployment are in the minority and the cruel and unusual way people are sanctioned into receiving nothing is a massive gaping whole that has been carved into the social net of this country its why I made the comment I did about the UBI video here on Reddit.

    I myself am on my 3rd career started in Early Years Education moved into Adult Education was.made redundant from that and I am now a civil servant ( a good chunk of us aren’t anywhere near Whitehall)

    I wholeheartedly agree about short termnismn, one of my personal favourite Social Democrats President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) once said
    “A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it ” Fascism”, sometimes “Communism”, sometimes “Regimentation”, sometimes “Socialism”. But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.”

    I am unashamedly a New Deal Social Democrat, I believe in a New Deal that evolves in the post war Atlee Government, Attlee who is another personal favourite Social Democrat Atlee skillful utilised the people in his party who were full throated socialists like Aneurin Bevan and put him where he thrived NHS, and other like William Jowitt, a young Hugh Gatsgill, Manny Shinwell, and another favourite Harold Wilson.

    Atlee understood how to balance those on the left and right of the Labour Party to serve the people something modern politicians seem to be bereft of, he also wasnt afraid of long term planning with house building the NHS and welfare,

    The result being they have lasted into the 21st century though if Atlee, heck or even if Wilson saw what was left of these things now they would be arguing for practical simple solutions like FDR was arguing at the time but sadly never lived to see implemented.

    I think the SDP is trying those things, yes we have some conservative leaning people we also have some who veer more left and we have some like Wilson’s Attlees and FDRs.

    on so much we are firing close, we aren’t there yet. But as fellow country bumpkin here in the south west and new member, well Im awaiting confirmation and membership card.

    It’s really important articles like that and local people real local people are articulating just how things are for locals in the South West


21st January 2024

Family, Community, Nation.