‘Leveling must benefit our district,’ says Spalding Area MP Sir John Hayes
In his weekly Hayes in the House column, MP Sir John Hayes discusses the upgrade…
It is quite reasonably expected that the government will seize the opportunity offered by Brexit to align its strategy with the interests of ordinary Britons.
Michael Gove spoke of the “economic, social and moral mission” at the heart of this chance to set a new course. His promise must be kept. The central element is the “race to the top”, at the heart of which is national resilience.
Embracing such resilience means fixing the broken globalist systems that have undermined local, regional and national sustainability, resulting in unacceptable geographic imbalances in health, wealth and prosperity. At the same time, basic government functions have become increasingly centralized, with fewer services that support well-being rooted in communities.
Now that the Prime Minister has won his vote of confidence, the focus must be on ensuring that all Britons share in national prosperity. For the emphasis placed on London by successive governments has abused urban metropolises too much.
Counties like Lincolnshire and districts like South Holland and South Kesteven have for too long been disadvantaged by bureaucratic public finance, with rural areas underfunded to provide the essential services that empower people to make the most of their life. It is a simple matter of fairness that this imbalance be corrected.
The failure to give sufficient weight to rurality and scarcity in funding formulas is at the heart of the problem. Police, public transport, health, education and most other facets of public life are more generously funded in cities than here. This raw deal is the result of the labyrinthine budgeting systems widely established in the days of Tony Blair.
Thanks to these institutional deficiencies, rural areas have struggled to keep pace with the rest of the country. Moreover, the rural economy is much more vulnerable to the predators of a failing globalized economic system. “Leveling Up” must be an “economic, social and moral” mission, because the quality of life of countless Britons depends on it.
Some progress has been made. Twenty million pounds have been committed to improving the A16, reducing congestion and opening up investment, which is essential as our arteries carry the foodstuffs that keep shelves full and pantries filled across the country.
Fortunately, we have been named one of 55 new ‘Education Investment Areas’, receiving targeted funding in schools to support teachers and students, building on the fantastic work done by amazing local educators like those at University Academy Holbeach and Spalding Academy, among others, which I visited recently.
However, individual initiatives, however valuable, are far from sufficient on their own. Nonsensical public spending algorithms that still undervalue rural areas must be abandoned and capital investments increased.
Moreover, the most vital asset of any nation is its human infrastructure, and the shortage of doctors and dentists that prevents my constituents from accessing the treatments they need is incompatible with an upscaling mission. The fragility of our NHS supply means that, as this newspaper has reported, South Holland has just 49 full-time GPs caring for 94,000 patients and just 39 dentists per 100,000 people across the whole of county. This cannot go on.
The upgrade idea is good, but it needs to become a consistent approach to resource allocation across the country, with measurable improvements made in places like South Holland & The Deepings.
Economic localism and national resilience are the means and the end to the race up – with the second in sight, the government must focus on the former without further delay.