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Britain's new prime minister's stance towards China For the northern revitalization plan isn

  • Author:July
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2016-08-05

The decision by Theresa May, the new UK prime minister, to postpone approval for Hinkley Point nuclear power station, apparently because of security concerns about Chinese investors involved in the project, raises questions about another of her predecessors’ flagships: George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse”.

Wooing Chinese investment was central to the former chancellor of the exchequer’s plan to harness the collective strength of northern England’s cities and so to rebalance the economy and devolve powers from Whitehall. If Hinkley is cancelled and a promised “golden era” of UK-China commercial relations comes to nought, the Powerhouse will look underfunded.

Jim O’Neill, Treasury minister and former Goldman Sachs chief economist, a driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse, is considering quitting the government over Mrs May’s approach to China.

Before the Hinkley announcement, Mrs May had reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the Powerhouse and spoke of a “gaping chasm” between London and the rest of the country. However, she sees the project a bit differently from her predecessors. She pledged to help “not one or even two of our great regional cities, but every single one of them” — an implied rebuke to Mr Osborne’s focus on Manchester and its near neighbours, such as(notably Leeds andincluding Sheffield.

The UK’s Brexit vote has added political urgency to the issue. The greatest support for leaving the EU was in predominantly working-class areas of the north and Midlands, where many felt let down by the political establishment. We should not be surprised. Even in the 1975 referendum, when the UK voted by two to one to stay in the European Economic Community, the leave vote was particularly strong in south Yorkshire and the north-east. This timeMore than two-thirds of voters in towns such as Hartlepool, Doncaster, Barnsley and Blackpool voted to leave.

Parts of the north, notably city centres, have recovered from deindustrialisation, but the region’s economic output per head remains about 25 per cent below the average for the rest of England. The north lags behind in health, life expectancy, employment, earnings and productivity.

The Brexit vote highlighted a criticism of the Northern Powerhouse: that it benefits cities more than small towns and rural areas. Mr Osborne’s aim was to improve transport links and research collaboration between cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, areas thatwere among the few in the north that voted to stay in the EU. People elsewhere in the north fear being left even further behind.

Understandable as those concerns may be, it would be wrong to backpedal on the Northern Powerhouse or its equivalent, the “Midlands Engine”. These regions have suffered too often abortive plans. There is substantial business support for the schemes involved and crucial infrastructure decisions, notably on a trans-Pennine fast rail link and road tunnel are yet to be made.

The challenge is this: can the initiative develop in a way that benefits the whole area? Better transport links between and within city regions will help give more people access to jobs in cities. And what is needed in addition is a stronger drive to improve skills and education across the north, which has too few high-skilled workers and too many low-skilled ones. According to think-tank ResPublica, the north’s proportion of residents with higher-level qualifications (31 per cent) is below the national average (36 per cent) and significantly behind London (49 per cent).

Skills are harder for politicians to influence than trains and roads, but the north will not catch up without this. The northIt struggles to attract high-calibre teachers: a pay premium for teachers teachers those in poorer areas would help. Northern Its secondary schools have, on average, funding of £1,300 less per pupil than those in London, according to the IPPR North think-tank.

School standards need a concerted focus by mayors, council leaders and headteachers. That requires restoring local democratic influence over independent state-funded academies: it makes little sense to devolve powers over transport, health, skills and planning while centralising control of schools. The north’s revival cannot be fashioned in Whitehall.