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Essays for a new region: For the North and a Federal Britain

For the North and a Federal Britain

Jeffrey Henderson and Suet Ying Ho*

In September 2013 London’s Deputy Mayor, Kit Malthouse, argued that if the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments wanted to boost tourism, they should spend their money not in their own nations, but in London (The Observer, September 14, 2013). With these comments Malthouse was merely echoing the sentiments of his boss, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. A year earlier Johnson, speaking to The Huffington Post, had remarked: ‘A pound spent in Croydon is of far more value to the country than a pound spent in Strathclyde’ (The Guardian, April 29, 2012). Putting to one side the metropolitan arrogance these comments reflect, they were symptomatic of the widespread assumption that what’s good for London is good for Britain.

The wasting of the British economy since the 1970s and the social dispossession associated with it, has disproportionately been a wasting of the North of England. It is a reality that flies in the face of the ‘trickle down’ economics that lies behind the words of Malthouse and Johnson. While we continue to wait for the beneficial effects of the economic crumbs that fall from London’s table, we suffer the consequences of the continuing decline of the North’s manufacturing industries, its technological, entrepreneurial and skill bases; and with these, its long-termprosperity.

But as metropolitan spokespersons are quick to point out, London is the economic powerhouse of Britain and, indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest this is true. For instance, if we take gross value added (GVA – a measure of the contribution a firm, industry or sector makes to the national economy) as a rough proxy for regional economic vitality, in 2011, according to the Office of National Statistics, London accounted for 22% of the British total while the North (that is, the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside taken together), for 19%. Not much in it one might think, until we realise that the North, with a population of nearly 15 million, has around 83% more people than London (population, 8.2 million).Consequently London has a far higher GVA per head of population than the North (or, indeed, than anywhere in the country). Though there are good reasons for this – the higher proportion of people in the most economically productive age groups (due partly to the higher number of migrant workers in London) being one of them – they do not fully explain the significant discrepancies involved. And if we reverse the logic implicit here,we can see how the North’s GVA/economic vitality in relation to its population size, is in fact a measure of the North’s economic under-development relative to London.

So what are the reasons for the North’s under-development? Unless we assume that the people of the North are lazy and less intelligent than their London counterparts, there are three key questions that need to be asked: how did this economic under-development of the North occur; what are the processes that reproduce it today; and what should be done about it?

Origins of our current condition

Where else, other than Britain, has industrial declinebeen evident for so long? While there is no need here to recount this sorry story in detail, the specialist literature suggests the rot began to set in over 120 years ago! While there were fluctuations in the fortunes (literal and metaphorical) of Britain’s manufacturing industriesthrough to the 1970s, it was from that time, facilitated by timid Labourism (for instance, failing to institute the recommendations of the Bullock Report of 1977, which could have paved the way for ‘democratic’ German-style corporate governance and industrial relations) and explicitly by aggressive Thatcherite neoliberalism, that the vice-like grip of de-industrialisation took hold. Given the preponderance of manufacturing in the North’s economic structure, it was inevitable that that region (along with economically similar ones: Scotland and the Midlands for instance) would suffer disproportionately.

At root many of our problems stem from the British managerial obsession with quick and very high profits: what is now termed ‘shareholder value’. From the moment they were confronted with their first serious competition – from the USA and Germany in 1880s – the heads of British industrial companies threw up their hands in surrender. Rather than invest in research and innovation, and thus new and better products to challenge their competitors, British senior managers opted for low cost – and thus low wage – strategies to prolong the life of outmoded products and production processes. This strategy, in the short to medium term, allowed them to underinvest while maintaining their thirst for high profits (for this was their real motivation).Crucially, however, in the longer term it was disastrous for the companies themselves and the workers and communities that depended on them.

Those of a certain age will remember, for instance, the British motorcycle companies – BSA, Triumph, Norton, Ariel etc. – that were blown away from the 1960s onwards by Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki. In part this was because they failed to invest quickly in the sorts of innovations a new generation of customers demanded: for instance, electronic starting motors and better engine seals to prevent oil leaks (important when the majority of bikers wanted to ride in their everyday clothes and without damaging an ankle).When Honda Cars acquired a stake in what was then Austin-Rover in the 1980s and began production of new models at the old Morris Motors plant in Cowley, Oxford, they were amazed to find that major production equipment,installed in the 1930s, was still in use fifty years later, even though it had long been unproductive relative to modern technologies. The major, ‘innovation intensive’ British industrial companies that remain today – Rolls Royce Engines, AstraZeneka (originally the pharmaceuticals division of the long defunct ICI), Glaxo Smith Kline or BEA Systems – do so because they are among the few, deviant cases, that bucked the general trend (the latter largely thanks to government defence contracts).

Just as with BSA or Austin-Rover in the past, so today with Centrica’s preferences for quick, easy and secure profits over more risky investments in innovation. Initially involved in the consortium to build and run a new nuclear electricity generating station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, Centrica’s board of directors pulled-out on the grounds that the government-guaranteed price on offer was not high enough, even though at 92 pence per kwh it was twice as high as the current price (and high enough to ensure participation by the French company, EDF, not to mention two Chinese companies). Within a month of pulling out, Centrica’s board had spent £0.5 billion buying back shares on the stock exchange, so boosting the company’s overall value. As the pay and bonuses of Centrica’s senior management are linked to share value rather than investing in innovation and expanding Britain’s generating capacity (thus helping to secure our economic future), it is fairly clear where their priorities lay.

There are two centrally important common threads that unite these historic and recent cases: the damage wrought by the ‘financialised mentality’ at the root of the British form of capitalism; and the substantial absence of a government willingness to engage in the economic planning necessary to help drive economic development. But where has this ‘financialised mentality’ – the preference, across all economic sectors and not merely banks, for chasing the fast buck, for running financial scams – come from and how might it be linked to government economic policy? These questions also have historical and structural origins and stem from the peculiarly British configuration of class privilege and empire. Within this configuration, the economic role of London and the influence of its beneficiaries on the economic and budgetary policies of Westminster governments, was – and remains – decisive.

In their book, British Imperialism, historians Peter Cain and Tony Hopkins show that from the late 17thcentury through to the 1960s and beyond, the fortunes of London’s economic and political elites were inextricably linked to Empire. Coming from the same class backgrounds (aristocratic and upper middle class) and educated at the same private schools, they emerged as ‘gentlemanly capitalists’ seeking the quick and easy routes to wealth afforded by the opportunities for financial and commercial speculation that was the British Empire. Not for them the hard work of industrial entrepreneurship with its benefits only in the longer term. That was for the ‘strange’ people (with even stranger accents) from Bolton or Huddersfield, Sunderland, Wolverhampton or Greenock.

Though the British Empire was fatally weakened by the legacies of World War II and the independence of India – the ‘jewel in the crown’ – in 1947, and killed off in the 1950s and 1960s, the penchant of London’s economic elite for financial and commercial speculation was not. On the contrary, it went from strength to strength as London became a global city and financial services, in particular, became proportionately an ever more important component of its economy. Kept in check by national and international controls on currency and investment flows until the early 1980s, London’s banks and other financial companies were released by the Thatcher government – and every succeeding one – to help build, not merely in Britain but worldwide, what we now term ‘casino capitalism’. Inherently unstable and destructive, privileging wealth and greed over all other values and dubbed ‘socially useless’ by the former head of the Financial Services Authority, Adair Turner, by 2008 its consequences were laid bare for all to see.

Today, not much seems to have changed. London’s financial institutions – unlike those of Germany, France or Japan – remain wedded to speculative rather than productive investment and to global investment opportunities rather than those likely to directly benefit the majority of the British population. With lobbying power organised via the shadowy (and possibly shady) operations of the City of London Corporation – which has an informal, but effective right of veto over central government legislation that might adversely affect financial interests – it is hardly surprising that the influence of financial institutions over successive governments, of whatever political stripe, has been maintained. As a consequence, national economic policy has continued to be predominantly fashioned in the interests of London’s internationally oriented elite groups who continue to thrive on financial and, since the 1980s in particular, property-market speculation.

Justified by ‘free-market’ theory, government after government, directly or indirectly, has claimedthat protecting and enhancing these special interests is, in fact, in the ‘national interest’. The refusal of the current government to break up the big banks after the 2008 crisis, countenance EU restrictions on management bonuses or the introduction of a ‘Tobin tax’ (designed to limit perpetual asset churning and thus large scale investment risk), are but the latest indications that when it comes to economic policy, the default position of British governments is to act in the interests of speculators.

Just as financial and property market speculation is not in the interests of even the majority of London’s population, it is certainly not in the interests of the populations of the North or of other regions. But because Britain has a centralised state, and successive Westminster governments have developed policies for the British economy as a whole that, at root, have predominantly addressed the narrow interests of the London elites, most of Britain has been subject to inappropriate economic policies. What the rest of the country needs is economic policies and financial arrangements that help drive productive and innovative activities; the only sort capable of delivering high wage economies with low levels of inequality. In the absence of such policies – in other words in the absence of strategic economic planning – British companies have been largely left to their own devises. As a result, the ‘financialised mentality’ of most British senior managers and their obsessions with increasing ‘shareholder value’ have been allowed free rein. From this lethal combination of centralised state withpeculiarly British ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ has come the lot of the vast majority of the peoples of the North, the Midlands, Scotland and other parts of Britain: economic and social dispossession.

Regional initiatives in a centralised state

British economic history of the last few decades has been replete with examples of the limited ways in which the centralised state – hostage as it is to metropolitan economic interests – has attempted to respond to dispossession and underdevelopment in the regions and nations. It is worth discussing these initiatives in some detailas they help underline the political constraints on economic rejuvenation in the regions that stem from the current character of the British state.

Even a cursory examination of the employment structure in the English regions shows the differences between London and the others. In 2011,government data indicate that manufacturing was only the 13th largest employer in London out of the city’s 16 main industries.In the North (North-West, North-East and Yorkshire and Humber), manufacturing was the third largest employer, employing more than 10% of the working population. In London, financial and insurance companies were the fifth largest employers, whereas in the North they ranked 12th out of the 16 main industries, with around 3% of the working population.With such differences, it is obvious that a uniform national economic policy would leave the northern regions short-changed and would not tackle the issues that impact the possibilities for economic rejuvenation. As a consequence, various governments have attempted to redress the balance, but their efforts have delivered a chequered history in terms of regional development initiatives.

Regional Development Agencies

In recent decades, only the previous Labour government made a serious attempt to address economic development at the regional level. Its attempt came in the form of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). RDAs were set up to tackle the specificities of a region’s economic condition. One important feature of RDAs was the nature of the core funding to support the organisational infrastructure involved in delivering their policy objectives: economic regeneration, encouraging inward investment, job creation, skills training etc.

According to an evaluation by the National Audit Office/NAO, ten years into their operation, RDAs were starting to make a real difference in the regions. The NAO found that for every pound the RDAs spent on physical regeneration, an additional £2.80 was secured from other partners/agencies in the region. Of the £2.80, over half (£1.51) was from the private sector. In terms of Gross Value Added, it was estimated that £3.30 was added to every pound spent by RDAs. The NAO concluded that the RDA’s physical regeneration projects had clearly helped to generate growth in the regions. What is more, according to the NAO report, ‘many of these projects will not realise their full benefits for many years, and independent evaluation suggests a potential return over their full lives of £8 for every pound spent’.

The success of the RDAs was helped by the fact that they enjoyed a relatively stable existence for a decade after their establishment in 1999. There were, however, two inherent restrictions that limited theirfull potential to contribute to regional economic development. Firstly, the RDAs were required to prepare their ‘Regional Economic Strategies’ in accordance with national economic development policy and the Treasury’s economic forecasts. In other words, while RDAs were set-up to tackle the specificities of regional economic problems, these had to be handled within parameters set by the central government. Secondly, as the NAO report points out, RDAs did not have direct influence over all central government funding in their regions. As a result, it was difficult for them to develop the integrated approachesnecessary to maximise their regional economic impacts.

Local Enterprise Partnerships

Unfortunately for the RDAs, and thus for the peoples of the regions, initiatives developed at the behest of central government in a London-dominated centralised state like Britain’s, is inevitably dependent to the whims of whatever party forms the central government. What did the current Conservative-led coalition government do to this promising regional initiative? The RDAs were abolished under legislation in 2010 and ceased their operations in 2012. In their place we got Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). LEPs have been a huge step backwards in terms of regional economic development. They are partnerships advocated by local authorities and incorporate local businesses to promote economic development. But compared to RDAs, LEPs are much smaller in their geographical coverage, their remits and funding; and thus – inevitably – their capacities for success.

City Regions and cognate phenomena

The boundaries of some LEPs overlap with those of the cityregions: Greater Manchester and Leeds, for example. The introduction of these ‘City Deals’ in 2012 further consolidates the cityregion as the current government’s key spatial unit when it comes to regional development. The first wave of City Deals covered eight cityregions in England, of which five are in the North: Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.

It must be said that there are many positives about cityregions. For example, the Leeds City Region has a vision to improve transport connectivity across northern England. If this vision comes to fruition, it will help promote cooperation among the regions and provide improved transport links, which arean essential support for production chains across the North and a prerequisite for sustainable economic growth there.  The proposal to set up a ‘Capital Fund Pot’ – to supportdevelopment initiatives – is also in the right direction. It recognises that in order to help drive economic development, more autonomy in capital spending is essential.

Other initiatives also tinker with funding streams in the city regions. In Greater Manchester, the introduction of ‘earn back’ is based on the government’s model of payment by results. It is a 30 year deal and will ‘earn back’ up to £30 million a year for Greater Manchester from increased business rates. ‘Earn back’ monies can be reinvested in such things as transport infrastructure. In Newcastle and Sheffield city regions,funds can be raised for critical infrastructure by tax increment financing. They also have the ability to borrow against future business rate income in key development zones.

To further consolidate the cityregion arrangements, Combined Authorities were subsequently introduced as a new governance model. The first one was the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, established in 2011 and its West Yorkshire counterpart was constituted in April 2014. Unlike the LEPs, which are partnerships and local authorities can be part of more than one LEP, Combined Authorities are legal entities and each local authority can only be part of one.

In Greater Manchester, this model works well as the ten local authorities have had a history of co-operation subsequent to the abolition of the Greater Manchester County Council in 1986. In West Yorkshire, however, the Combined Authority seems destined to be yet another disruption to the existing governance set up. For instance, the ‘Leeds City Region Leaders Board’ was constituted in 2007, and consists of ten districts in West and North Yorkshire. The boundaries of the LEP are the same as the city region. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority, however, covers only five of these districts (Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees). The Leeds City Region Deal proposal states that other local authorities would have the opportunity to join in the future and the Combined Authority could expand to cover the whole LEP area. In the meantime, it is down to the local leaders to work out how best to navigate the anomalies in what is clearly a confused governance structure.

 Current initiatives are insufficient

Whatever the benefits for economic development that may be derived from these piecemeal initiatives, the crux of the matter is that for at least the last 40 years (since the formation of the metropolitan county councils in 1974 and their abolition in the 1980s) this continuous chopping and changing of governance models at the local, sub-regional and regional levels – at the behest of central government (and for whatever functional and/or ideological purposes) has wasted a lot of time, energy, resources and institutional capacities that could have been channelled into much better and more productive activities. Had there been a regional governance system with explicit commitments to strategic economic planning, it could have helped check and reverse the processes of deindustrialisation that have destroyed communities and delivered many of the social problems we confront today. While economic planning is essential to the possibilities of economic rejuvenation in the North and other dispossessed regions and nations, current governance arrangementsdo not augur well for its prospects for success.

While it is recognised that cityregions, relative to earlier local government arrangements, enjoy a higher level of autonomy with regard to prioritising resources allocation, they have serious limitations if the goal is ‘re-balancing’ the British economy and, as part of this, economic rejuvenation in the North. Firstly, cityregions do not have the authority to autonomously raise revenues and thus remain constrained in their capacities to direct their finances into economically productive activities. As the National Audit Office noted in its evaluation of the now defunct Regional Development Agencies, without financialautonomy, integrated and coherent approaches to economic development – such as by the city regions – become difficult and the maximisation of benefits near impossible. Secondly, as most of the funds for city regions come from central government, the policy parameters they are obliged to work within are set within the national economic policy framework. As we have argued, the deep – and increasing problematic -economic asymmetries between London (and its South-eastern hinterland) and the other regions, almost certainly mean that a London influenced national economic policy is inappropriate to the economic needs of the North and other regions. Thirdly, the city-region model may facilitate co-operation and collaboration between local authorities and businesses within the given region (with the aim of promoting competitiveness for inward investment), but what about cooperation between cityregions? Will this happen, or is it more likely that it will lead to inter-city-regional rivalries when they need to compete for scarce resources? Far better, surely, to have a trans-northern governance authority capable of mediating between competing city region interests and developing a coherent, region-wide, autonomously financed economic planning capacity.

Labour’s possible future initiatives will also be insufficient

Should Labour form the government come May 2015, Andrew Adonis’ recent report on how to stimulate economic growth is likely to inform much of their approach to dealing with Britain’s badly lopsided and under-productive economy. The report contains a number of good ideas and proposals. These range from how to enable companies in the same area to work better together through sharing knowledge and technology, to improving technical education and increasing the country’s skilled workforce.The strengthening of the existing regional institutions for economic development is a particular emphasis. It’s also good to see a senior Labour Party figure – probably for the first time since Robin Cook was Shadow Minister for Trade and Industry in the early 1990s – make a strong case for industrial policy.

Unfortunately, however, the Adonis report is at least as important for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. While Adonis and his colleagues are interested in extending and strengthening the current regional institutional apparatus – particularly Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities– as vehicles for driving economic rejuvenation, their proposals are hardly radical. Given the deep structural problems that confront the political economies of the North, the Midlands and in varying degrees, many other parts of Britain, the report’s recommendations will be insufficient to pull the rejuvenation trick (and sustain development from then onwards).

Four big omissions

The failures of the report coalesce around four major issues on which its authors are deafeningly silent. The first concerns democratic participation in the institutions that will help drive local economic development. The report – quite rightly – gives ‘a view from business’ (to which a whole chapter is devoted). But, in tune with the New Labour priorities that permeate the report, one searches in vain for a ‘view from organised labour’ or from community organisations.While the report’s researchers interviewed representatives of manufacturing companies, banks, universities, colleges, management consultancies and local governments, the only trade union agency that anyone appears to have bothered with was Unionlearn, the TUC’s skills training initiative.

But significant change inevitably challenges vested interests. Consequently, unless a democratic consensus among all interested parties on both the means and ends of economic transformation is built at local and regional levels, the likelihood for conflict during the transformation process will be high.

Also missing from the report is engagement with other centrally important problems that current arrangements fail to address. For instance, it does not discuss the potentially vital issue of who – institutionally – coordinates how industrial policy is formed across regional institutions that neighbour each other.As a result, it fails to say who should adjudicate the conflicts of interest that will inevitably arise between them (say, between the Greater Manchester and Liverpool Combined Authorities). In other words, the report fails to deal with the major institutional problem evident currently and noted above: namely, who will be responsible for the region-wide economic planning and coordination that will be necessary.

Additionally, the report does not acknowledge that under its proposals, local economic development will continue to rely largely on funding controlled by central government. This is because even the entire local business levy (which the report proposes to make available for development purposes) is unlikely to generate the level of funding necessary given the enormity of the economic problems that confront some of the regions. Power, in other words, would fundamentally remain with central government.

For the report’s authors this is unproblematic. It is so because they fail to appreciate that however successful their proposals might be, they would still be vulnerable to the ideologies and budgetary preferences of whatever party was in office in Westminster (just as the Regional Development Agencies – founded in 1999, abolished in 2012 – were). As the British state has no written constitution, their proposed initiatives would have no guarantee of long-term continuity and stability.

The ultimate problem with the report, however, is that its authors do not understand (or refuse to countenance) that the ‘smarter’ state they desire cannot be achieved while the entirety of the British economy is dominated by decisions made in Westminster. The report’s proposals would do little to transcend this. Our problem – the British problem – is that we are lumbered with a pre-modern state. Building a smarter state thus requires the formation of a new and different state.

What is to be done?

After more than 40 years of de-industrialisation, increasing inequality and poverty, a widening North-South divide (or whatever terminological construct we might place upon the social and economic fracturing of Britain), the fundamental issue for the people of the North, and in varying degrees those of every English region and British nation, is the need for structural economic transformation. This is not merely about economic growth (we have had plenty of that, but built on weak foundations – speculation, low value-added and thus low wage service industries etc.), but about how to develop our regional economies in such a way that they – and when aggregated, the country as a whole – become capable of delivering generalised and sustainable prosperity. If this can be done, then the country’s deepening social disintegration and many of the problems it has caused, can be halted and reversed.

For the North, the Midlands and some other regions, radical economic transformation of their economies will be necessary. Specifically, these regions will need to be re-industrialised. While this may well involve the upgrading (technological and innovation-deepening) of some of the existing manufacturing industries, it will also involve the encouragement of new, skill and knowledge-based ones associated, perhaps, with bio-technologies, new materials (such as the super thin, light and strong, graphene, invented at Manchester University), specialised engineering, cutting-edge electronics, low carbon energy and new types of transport equipment and the various manufacturing related, high-end service industries that will need to be associated with them. To effect the re-industrialisation of the North and similar regions, companies engaging in new and more innovative activities, weaned off the financialised mentality of senior executives that has so damaged Britain, will need to be forged and their collective interests and those of the communities in which they are located, ‘orchestrated’. The history of global capitalism tells us that this can only be done with the help of governmental institutions capable of strategic economic planning; institutions that in the North may wish to draw on some of the most successful examples of dynamicindustrial capitalism in Europe (Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland for instance) and elsewhere – South Korea or Taiwan, perhaps – for inspiration. For the reasons explored here, Westminster governments are structurally incapable of building the institutional capacities necessary for this task. As a consequence, a new type of British state is needed.

Re-formation of the British State

With London working predominantly to the rhythms of the global, not the national economy (and to its speculative, ‘casino’ aspects in particular), central government – irrespective of governing party – has lacked the intellectual vision and political will needed to help deliver economic re-structuring. Westminster policy long ago became incompatible with building high performing, skill intensive manufacturing and related industries; the only ones capable of delivering the high wage, sustainable and egalitarian economies that the North and the other regions need.

Other than Japan, Britain has probably the most centralised state system of any major country in the world. With this has come the concentration of economic, political and cultural power in a single city: London. To develop the vision and political will needed to rejuvenate the North and Britain’s other regions and nations, weconsequently cannot rely on Westminster. The people of the North have to take political responsibility for our own back yards.  While the city-region and related initiatives are useful steps forward, after decades of neglect of the North and elsewhere, they are insufficient to the now considerable task of economic transformation. They are so, because they ultimately exist at the behest of central government. As Britain does not have a written constitution that would guarantee their longevity, they could be dismantled should the government change. Additionally they do not have the financial autonomy – and so are unlikely to generate sufficient institutional capacity – necessary to help drive and co-ordinate economic rejuvenation across the northern region.

The Institute of Public Policy Research has shown that the North, even with its currently depressed economic condition, would be the 8th largest economy in the EU were it a separate, sovereign state. Consequently the possibility of economic expansion with generalised prosperity in the North is substantial. To realise this, however, the North needs a trans-regional governmental authority to help plan and guide its development.

As with Scotland, to develop prosperous, egalitarian economies, the North and similar English regions, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, need maximum devolution. We need, in other words, the re-formation of the entire British state. And in order to prevent reversals by future central governments, it will need to be a re-formationenshrined in a written constitution.

There are compelling reasons why a constitutional re-making of the British state is long overdue (and the debate over the future of Scotland is forcing them to the foreground). Among those is the fact that economic transformation of the sort necessary in the North and other regions cannot be left to ‘market forces’ alone: companies responding to profit signals. Such signals are currently insufficient to entice private investment into the sorts of industries, research, education and training that is necessary. Consequently, transformation will require a state capable of working with businesses, trade unions and communities to become a collective industrial entrepreneur. Allied with regional development banks supplying ‘venture capital’, it will need to be a state able to raise its own finance and develop the democratic legitimacy, intellectual capacity and political will to engage in strategic economic planning. Short of a sovereign state, only a regional state that is part of a federal system (as with the German länder or US or Canadian states) is able to develop those types of attributes and functions. This is why the people of the North, and the British people in general, need – and deserve – such a Federal state.


Acknowledgement: This paper draws on the analysis and arguments in an article due for publication in the autumn: Jeffrey Henderson and Suet Ying Ho, ‘The upas tree: the overdevelopment of London and the underdevelopment of Britain’, Renewal, 22(3), 2014. We are grateful to the editor of Renewal, Ben Jackson, for allowing us to use that work here.

*Jeffrey Henderson is Professor of International Developmentand Suet Ying Hois a Visiting Fellowin the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. Among earlier appointments, Jeffrey Henderson was a Professor at the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester and Suet Ying Ho was a Lecturer in Urban Planning at the University of Liverpool and at Leeds Metropolitan University. They now divide their time between Bristol and Leeds and are both Members of the Steering Committee of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.

Long Term Rail Strategy for the North – HMF Response

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation has submitted a detailed response to Rail North’s consultation on Long Term Rail Strategy.

It is supportive of the overall approach but argues for a stronger vision for rail in the North with a directly-elected Northern Assembly overseeing rail, instead of the joint arrangements between 33 local authorities. It wants to see a not for dividend social enterprise running the North’s rail services, with profits recycled back into the business, providing improved facilities.


To read the full response, click here  LTRS Rail North HMF Response

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)

The Economic Transformation of the North

Professor Jeffrey Henderson describes how centralisation led to economic decline in England, and explains why only devolution to local and regional government can reverse that decline and create a fair and prosperous North.

“The fundamental problem that confronts the North, as it does in varying degrees every other region of Britain, is that of economic transformation. The question is not merely how to create economic growth (there was plenty of that during the 1990s and 2000s, but look where we are now), but how to build genuine development capable of delivering generalised and sustainable prosperity with low levels of inequality. If that can be done, then the country’s deepening social disintegration and many of the problems it has engendered, can be halted and reversed.”

Download the full paper: The Economic Transformation of the North

Jeffrey Henderson is a Professor at the University of Bristol and, currently, a Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds. He was born in County Durham and brought up there and in Yorkshire. He returned to the North in 1990 and lived first in Manchester and then in Leeds. He now lives partly in Leeds and partly in Bristol. Between 1992 and 1994 he was an advisor to Robin Cook MP, then Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry. During that time he worked on Cook’s economic policy manifesto, Re-Making Britain’s Future.