Bishop of Blackburn exposes the North West and South divide
3:12pm Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
THE retiring Bishop of Blackburn has expressed concern at a widening funding and employment divide between the North West and South.
In his final speech in the House of Lords, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, said the government’s infrastructure plan, which includes £30billion of spending, highlighted huge discrepancies in the spend per head.
He said: “The National Infrastructure Plan 2011 does not fill me with much hope for a rebalancing of the economy between the regions.
“The Institute for Public Policy Research has analysed the proposals contained in the plan and discovered that 11 of the 20 largest projects benefit London and the South East.
“Of the transport infrastructure proposals, the effect is a spend of almost £3,000 per head for those living in London, compared with a spend of just £134 per head for those living in the North West.
“It would appear that the regional imbalances are set to continue for some time to come.”
He also urged help to develop a vibrant, diverse economy by quoting Sir Winston Churchill and asking ministers to give people “the tools to finish the job”.
He said: “I ask the Minister to talk seriously to his treasury colleagues so that areas such as Lancashire, and indeed the whole North West, can be given the tools to encourage investors.
“Not only will we in the North West finish the job but, once again, we will be the beating heart of the economy.
“The sub region used to be recognised as one of the major drivers in the industrial landscape of the country. Sadly, that is no longer the case.”
He also spoke of the shocking rise in claimants within his diocese.
He said: “In my diocese of Blackburn, which covers most of Lancashire, nine years ago the claimant count for the sub region was 1.6per cent. As I prepare to leave office, I note that this figure has now nearly doubled to 3per cent of the working-age population.
“To put this figure into direct unemployment terms, it has increased from 4.7per cent to 7.8per cent in that time.
“Previous large employers have restructured and moved elsewhere, or closed altogether.
“They have done that, in part, because of a lack of investment in better transport, that is public transport, of course. I am sure that is one of the major reasons.”
The Bishop will retire on October 31, after leading the Church of England in Lancashire for more than eight years.
He and his wife, Christine, will retire to Bexhill, Sussex, where the bishop was born.