Jo Platt MP: For our towns in the North to thrive again we need social mobility backed by deeds, not just words
Published: Monday 9 July 2018
Under this Government our town economies are becoming more disconnected from our booming cities than ever before, says Jo Platt MP.
The Government has recently released report after report highlighting the burning injustices we are facing in society today. But despite the rhetoric from Whitehall, low social mobility is developing into a crisis in our towns.
Our economy is still not working for the many; and low income families across the country feel divorced from the decision-making process which affects their daily lives.
Firstly, we heard the Government’s Budget which revealed that our country’s productivity is flat-lining. This is the exact time our country needs economic stability as we leave the European Union, but beyond the quagmire of the Brexit negotiations, the Government is offering little to reassure our towns – who overwhelmingly voted Brexit – that things will get better once we leave the EU.
The Social Mobility Commission has released its State of the Nation report. It proved to be a damning indictment on this Government’s record on social mobility, and showed a postcode lottery that dictates the type of start a child will get in life.
The Government then published its long awaited Industrial Strategy. Whilst the strategy identified the areas Government can make a substantial difference to our economy, it failed to invest in our small-scale, local infrastructure projects. These are the engines of the economy, but also the foundation of inclusive growth.
And then finally we received the Rail Strategy. It stated the importance of rail connectivity and quality to both our national and local economies to connect people, services, towns and goods across the country, but it did not seek to remedy the fundamental flaw in our transport network; connectivity between towns and cities. Under this Government our town economies are becoming more disconnected from our booming cities than ever before.
So the trickle-down method of investing in our major cities and hoping that this brings regional prosperity has failed. It has failed because the infrastructure needed to facilitate this is non-existent.
Take my constituency of Leigh. It is a town in between Manchester and Liverpool of 50,000 residents, yet it has no train station. There is no A-level provision within the constituency and no rail link to connect Leigh’s young people with A-Level provision outside of the town. Combined with the fact that businesses and apprenticeship providers are understandably more interested in investing in nearby cities than disconnected towns, is it any wonder that towns like Leigh are facing a widening skills gap and increasing unemployment?
But the Government claim that they are more committed than ever to the Northern Powerhouse. It is true that there has been rightful investment into the North to tackle the regional economic disparities; HS2 for example is due to cut through the middle of my constituency. But without any rail capacity or any serious investment into local infrastructures, how are towns like Leigh ever going to benefit from these headline projects?
I have therefore secured an adjournment debate on Friday which focuses on rail connectivity between towns and cities. This debate will focus on the importance of transport infrastructure to rejuvenate the fortunes of our towns, in conjunction with a bold vision to boost our local economies. This must start with how we equip our young people with the skills and knowledge to deliver the jobs of tomorrow.
Towns like Leigh were born in the boom of the first industrial revolution. My fear is that without the ladders of opportunity from government, they will be merely spectators in the so-called fourth industrial revolution that we are living through today.
My message to the Government is clear, we need a revolution in our approach to how we tackle social mobility which includes investment into local infrastructures, skills, apprenticeships and business growth. Unless we prioritise towns like Leigh, we will leave behind a forgotten generation of young people who were unable to access the employment and educational provisions provided in our nearby cities.