According to a recent report, northern British cities need more people like this man.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a think tank, has suggested that the north needs a champion to fight for investment, much in the way Boris Johnson does for London.
1. Certainly, spending cuts have been significant to councils in the north.
Mapping unfairness? How councils in the deprived urban north have felt the brunt of the coalition’s cuts.
2. In fact, the three northern regions suffered worst in July 2013’s Spending Review, while London and the south east suffered the least.
The economic impact of 2015/16 spending cuts on the north east could be three times as bad than for London, where Boris Johnson is mayor, the IPPR found.
4. In truth, elected mayors are dead ducks.
Or cheeky monkeys. Stuart Drummond (or to give him his professional name, H’Angus the Monkey) was a football mascot-turned Mayor of Hartlepool. Inexplicably elected in 2002, Drummond’s post lasted 10 years before his voters elected not just to turf him out, but to get rid of a mayor entirely.
2.4 million voters in 50 local authorities across the UK have been asked whether they’d like a mayor since 2000. Only 16 said yes, and one has returned their mayor. The reason?
Boris Johnson is special. His powers extend beyond those of H’Angus the Monkey’s, and he can harangue central government for more money.
5. But that even if we can’t have a “Boris for the north”, it doesn’t mean regional representation shouldn’t exist.
Strong regional representatives, willing to fight the corner for their constituents, are important. That’s something both parties agree on.
The Conservative manifesto for the 2010 General Election said that:
We have seen that a single municipal leader can inject dynamism and ambition into their communities. […] Big decisions should be made by those who are democratically accountable, not by remote and costly quangos.
The man on the right in the picture above is Nick Brown, former Minister of the North East, who was Gordon Brown’s chief whip when the Kirkcaldy MP was Prime Minister. Regional ministers were established in 2007 to make sure regional voices were heard.
The Minister for the North West was Phil Woolas, a Treasury and Immigration Minister. Caroline Flint, a Labour frontbencher, was at one time Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber.
6. They were all high-ranking politicians with the ear of the Prime Minister and his advisors.
When the coalition government came to power in May 2010, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was asked about the appointment of coalition Regional Ministers. Though it was implied the posts would continue, the positions appear to have been quietly dropped.
8. Today’s heavy northern hitters are William Hague and Eric Pickles.
The former spends much of his time focused on events outside the UK as Foreign Secretary, while the latter is Local Government Secretary, and sometimes cruelly compared to a human thumb.
Pickles has recently announced policy that would give local authorities more control over spending in their area, but critics say he is not doing enough.
9. But all this has knock-on effects for the north.
The lack of a strong voice supporting the north’s cause when it comes to divvying out the money means that time and time again the northern regions find themselves locked out while London and the south east benefit.
Last month the government announced its National Infrastructure Plan. 75% of the £375bn will be spent on transport projects – but it’s weighted strongly towards London and the south east.
11. That’s not all. The north’s cultural funding is being starved, while London’s prospers.
Though its theatre ceilings may collapse, London receives far more money than the north (and, indeed, the rest of the country) for culture. An independent report found that £4.60 is spent per head outside of London. In the capital? £69.
The situation got so dire in Newcastle that it announced last year a 100% culture budget cut.
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