Monthly Archives: March 2013

Warm welcome for Ed Miliband’s ‘regional banks’ proposal

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation, a campaign for Northern regional government, has warmly supported Ed Milband’s call for a network of regional banks.

“This is the sort of radical and creative thinking which Labour needs to do more of,” said the Foundation’s chair, Barry Winter. “Northern businesses – and people with new ideas – need the support of a banking system which understands the needs of the region. We simply don’t have that at the moment.”

The inspiration for the regional banks plan owes much to the experience of the German regional and local banks, the ‘sparkassen’. They are only able to lend within their region and have a duty to ‘promote civic growth’. Professor Paul Salveson, general secretary of the Foundation, commented that “there are many more lessons to be learnt from the German experience. Alongside regional banks the Germans have a highly effective system of directly-elected regional government which works closely with the regional banks. We need something similar here if we are serious about promoting a strong Northern economy”.

In 2011 the German local banks had a total loan stock of £280 billion whilst the figure for German commercial banks was only £153 billion. “Having a strong network of regional and local banks, some run as co-operatives and mutuals, is essential for the revival of the North’s economy. Working with a Northern regional government and empowered local authorities, we could reverse the decline of the region’s industrial base,” said Barry.

Ends/ For more information ring Paul Salveson 07795 008691

Download the document (MS Word doc): Welcome for Miliband’s regional banks proposal

Note for editors

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is a broadly-based campaign for Northern devolution, supported by many Northern MPs and peers. Linda Riordan is president of the Foundation.

The Foundation was founded in March 2012 to lobby for devolution to the North of England and is rapidly building up support across the North of England. Its patrons include Lord Prescott, several MPs and the grand-son of Hannah Mitchell. Hannah (1871-1946) was a radical activist who was imprisoned during the agitation for women’s votes. She went on to become a popular councillor in the Newton Heath ward of Manchester. Although she had just two weeks of formal schooling she was a talented writer.

Report on “A Voice for the Northern Economy” IPPR North Conference

Many supporters of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation and readers of this website are familiar with the excellent work of the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR North) and its collaboration with the Northern Economic Futures Commission (NEFC). Its report ‘Northern Prosperity is National Prosperity’ provides a vast amount of national and international research. It highlights the reasons why the northern economy has been in long-term decline and signposts a range of proposals for a better, fairer, future for the North. Interestingly, it identifies the Northern region of England, as does the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, as the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber.

This was the focus for the conference, ‘A Voice for the Northern Economy’, held in Leeds by IPPR North on 28 January 2013. The keynote speaker was Rachel Reeves MP for Leeds West, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Neil McLean Chair of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) responded.

Read more of the report by Jenny Cronin here A Voice for the Northern Economy. IPPR North Conference (Opens a word document)

A northern-wide body with big powers devolved from London

Rachel Reeves is a woman to watch. The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury is rapidly becoming a candidate to succeed Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls should a change be needed before the election. The Leeds West MP made an important speech on rebalancing England’s economy in the city recently. It had a lot of good analysis about how the government have sucked money out of the North and the need for investment in skills and apprenticeships.

But then came the first clear signal that we have got from Labour since 2010 on how they see the future structure of devolution in the North. Reeves condemned the abolition of Regional Development Agencies but then announced that Labour had no intention of dismantling what she herself called “the patchwork” of organisations and funding streams that had been set up since. Explicitly she said the Local Enterprise Partnerships would stay. So there we have it, parochial, underfunded, underpowered LEPs are going to stay. Labour hasn’t even been prepared to listen to the case for a northern wide body with big powers devolved from London on issues like transport, skills and economic investment.

This won’t please Chris Glen, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in West Yorkshire. He has scathing criticism of the Leeds LEP saying it has had “limited impact”. He refers to reports that Yorkshire has the second lowest rate of construction in the UK and the region is tenth out of twelve regions for attracting inward investment from larger private sector companies. Warming to his work Mr Glen says Leeds LEP has had poor engagement with small businesses and needs to be more transparent. Perhaps Rachel Reeves should have listened to Mr Glen before committing a potential Labour government to endorse these fragile vehicles for economic recovery.

Jim Hancock

Jim Hancock is former Political Editor of BBC North West. He has been a broadcaster on politics for over thirty years, and interviewed every Prime Minister from Harold Wilson to David Cameron.