Opportunity for our communities
Britain is great. Up and down the country our Labour councils have delivered regeneration for the future of our town centres, supported local businesses through multiple covid grants, invested in new sustainable council and affordable housing, and more as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic and understand our place in a post-Brexit world.
However despite the best efforts of councils and communities local economies are suffering. In former industrial towns like Doncaster traditional skilled jobs have been lost, and retail is now the biggest employment sector. Our cities and towns cannot thrive without a diverse pluralistic local economy.
We need local jobs, which fit the skills of our local people. The shifting of jobs from town to town damages not just those who will lose their work, but also town centres where workers spend money at lunchtime and after office hours. With fuel costs sky-rocketing and public transport costs already unaffordable to many, the value of quality local jobs accessible to local people has never been higher.
It's troubling that the vogue in government for competitive bidding to access funding and resource has now extended to where organisations place their headquarters. The Great British Rail HQ competition has pit cities and towns with proud railway heritage against each other in a resource draining, intense battle. Birmingham, Crewe, Doncaster and the other contenders all need the jobs and growth this will bring. But what isn't needed is diversion of council resource and cost of compiling a bid and running a campaign the 42 authorities who entered this competition have endured. What other projects and real terms local delivery could've been achieved by those 42 authorities had they not been pushed into competing against each other.
But this is what the Tories seem to like. Look at the Levelling Up, the Future High Streets Fund, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and the rest. instead of giving those responsible for levelling up a fair funding formula, they make North Herts compete with Greater Manchester, South Kesteven against Birmingham, in a bizarre hunger games fight for which council - whether it's a district, county, unitary, combined mayoral authority etc. - is truly worthy of the crumbs central government choose to flick from the table. This isn't levelling up. It's levelling down. Councils are worse off under this system, and that means our communities are too. We have less money - a district may only get to keep 12p in every £1 of council tax it collects. And our staff have to work on a revolving door of bids, or else we have to hire consultants.
A Labour government will stop this and fund local government properly. After all, your councillors are the ones closest to you, and really do know what, and how, to level up your communities.
The arts play a crucial role in creating regional destinations and micro-economic hubs. We have a tenacious network of Little Theatres and independent creative hubs across the county. Proper arts funding, recognising the role the arts play in local and national economies, will deliver more jobs, training, skills, and circular local economies where venues act as local lynchpins and transform towns and cities into destinations.
Britain has so much potential . We have enormous hurdles to overcome, but with the right voices in Westminster we can deliver real opportunity for everyone.