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Archive for the ‘Economy and Society’ Category

Loanshark crackdown benefits local savers

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

1 in 4 families have fewer than £95 in savings

Among this week’s headlines was the stark figure that one in four families in the UK have fewer than £95 in savings. When £95 would barely cover some of the most basic car repairs, a boiler breakdown or the latest gadget for a child’s birthday, the fact that 25% of British households have so little in savings should be a cause of grave concern for the Government.

Clearly the solution to this is the investment in infrastructure and better paid jobs, which I’ve consistently called for, that would drive economic growth, and also the ending of public sector pay restraint which has meant that wage growth has been outstripped by rising prices for many years now. Unfortunately for my Council colleagues and I, these are matters that are currently out of our hands. However, where we can make a difference as the local authority we do.

For example, last week we heard news that our local Credit Union, Cash Box has recruited 50 new members since December via an initiative that gave a cash incentive for new joiners using money confiscated from illegal money lenders. A partnership between Tameside Council, Cashbox and the England Illegal Money Lending Team had recovered £1250 from loan sharks and used this to award a £25 savings boost for each of the first 50 new members who made at least two monthly payments in to their account.

Cashbox is our local credit union

This scheme follows our ‘Generation Savers’ pledge last year to encourage a culture of saving amongst our residents from an early age. The pledge provided a £10 bonus for 11 year olds who opened an account on their transition from primary to secondary school. There has been good interest and uptake in this, but we are clear that we need to improve further in order to truly embed the culture of saving that we desire for Tameside.

It is hoped that the new members who joined as part of these two initiatives will continue to be regular savers and will have money set aside, that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, for any future emergencies.

In addition to being a safe place to deposit your savings (and the opportunity to earn a dividend on them which, owing to record low interest rates, can be better than savings rates offered by banks) Credit Unions also act as a responsible lender, offering loan products to those who haven’t quite saved enough for any eventualities. Borrowers can take out a loan knowing that the provider is a fair and legal lender, and also that the interest being paid is reinvested back in to members and the community given that the Credit Union is a mutual organisation.

Promoting and growing Credit Union membership therefore meets two objectives. Firstly it encourages our residents to put away some of their earnings for a rainy day, and secondly it provides an alternative to expensive payday lenders and loan sharks.

I therefore welcome this growth in membership and will support any initiatives that seek to grow the credit union further.

Inequality and the Generation Gap. More Than Meets the Eye?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Read any newspaper or magazine which focuses on economics and politics over the last few days and you will have almost certainly stumbled upon the idea of “intergenerational inequality”. The basic argument goes; for most of modern history in Britain every successive generation has enjoyed improved living standards compared to the generation that came before it. However, thanks to the economic crisis of the past decade there is a real chance that this will not hold true for the generation born between 1981-2000 (the so-called “millennials”). A basic tenant of our social contract and a fundamental aspiration for every parent, that our children should have a better life than we did, has been thrown into doubt in a way that is truly unprecedented.

Is that fear justified? I’d argue “Yes, up to a point”. It’s true that the figures don’t make for pretty reading. According to the Resolution Foundation, older millennials (around 30-35 years old) are the first workers to earn less than those born five years before them, and many of them entered work before the Great Recession. At the same time, it’s been reported recently that pensioner household incomes have overtaken those of working age equivalents for the first time.

Clearly something needs to be done, but the danger here is that we start seeing intergenerational inequality as a zero sum game, where making things better for young people can only be done by taking away from older people. Will, for example, will following the advice of some in abolishing the “triple lock” on pensions (where pension increase per year by the higher of the growth in average earnings, the Consumer Price Index or 2.5%) create good-quality, high-paid jobs for young people by itself? I’d argue not. Reducing inequality must come from lifting people up to the same level, not dragging them down.

I’d go further and say that treating entire generations like some vast amorphous block does nobody any favours. Take two young people born on the same day; one living in the countryside and another living in an inner city. Do they really have any similarities beyond the fact that they share a birthday? Do we miss any potential inequality in income and opportunity between these two because we’re more focused on how they’re doing compared to their parents? A few facts and figures can show what this means in practice. While some pensioners may be earning more than those in work, there are still 1.6 million pensioners (14% of the total pensioner population) living below the poverty line after housing costs. A higher income young person at age 20 has a greater income than a poorer member of their parent’s generation at any age.

We must resolve ourselves to fighting inequality wherever we see it, not setting up one generation against another. Fortunately, there are more than a few ways in which we can do this. Building more and better housing will benefit both young people looking to settle down and older people looking to move or downsize in retirement. Protecting pensions gives security not just to people on the verge of retirement age, but to young people who want to know that pensions will still be there for them decades from now. This is more than a dry debate about economics. If we accept that inequality both between and within generations is one of the gravest issues we face (and I believe it is) then how we deal with it says a lot about what kind of country we are.

I’ve had enough of the policies of scapegoating, divide-and-rule and “us versus them”. We need to be far more ambitious and far more progressive before we can even begin to put things right.

How To (And How To Not) Call Time on Excessive Pay.

Monday, January 16th, 2017

The city of Portland in America, which has recently passed a law raising taxes for businesses whose CEO-to-workers pay ratio is over 100-1.

If you watched the news last week you can’t have helped but have noticed the furore that the Leader of the Labour Party kicked off when he suggested that there should be some kind of cap on high earnings.

Excessive pay is more than an economic problem. At a time where salaries and job prospects for those on the lower end of the scale are getting more precarious by the day it becomes a moral problem as well. I agree with Corbyn insofar as he says that inequality, especially income inequality, is harming our society and our public services. It’s no secret that levels of pay at the top of business and industry have skyrocketed far beyond anything resembling sanity. The High Pay Centre, an independent think-tank, estimate that FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid 130 times more than the median pay of their staff, compared to 45 times more two decades ago.

Where I disagree with Corbyn is on what should be done about it. I am, and continue to be, against a hard cap on earnings. It’s a crude and blunt instrument, the financial equivalent of performing heart surgery with a sledgehammer. It also runs the risk of incentivising behaviour such as hiding pay through share options and payments-in-kind.

I’ve always made it clear that I have no issue with people reaping the rewards if they work hard and are successful. What has happened in recent years is that CEOs and executives are receiving colossal pay packets for just getting by or, in some cases, even failing completely. The example I highlighted the last time I wrote about this subject was Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, who received a 20% pay rise last year despite the company recording the biggest operating loss in its history under his watch. When we also start seeing massive pay ratios between workers and executives the question has to be asked if their performances could ever justify it. You could potentially make an argument that a top notch chief executive is, say, responsible for 20 times more than an average employee and therefore deserves to be paid 20 times more, but can you make the same argument for 50, 100, 150 times more?

So if I think something needs to be done but I’m against a hard cap, then where does that leave me?

Luckily we already have a way to move money around society to benefit us all, a way that has been proven to work for centuries across the world. It’s called the tax system. That’s why I’m interested in an experiment conducted by the city of Portland in America, which is introducing tax increases of 10% and 25% for business whose CEOs are paid more than 100 and 250 times more than the median employee respectively. This “inequality tax” would help pay for basic public services in the city, such as housing and police/firefighter salaries. If Portland can pull off a long-term shift in cultural change towards executive pay while raising money for public services at the same time, then why can’t they do the same thing here in the UK? Its questions like this that I’ll be asking the Prime Minister over the next year.

Inequality is not inevitable, but it will take serious action to turn around a ship that has been allowed to get out of control for far too long. The fightback must start here. A fair society is a stronger society, and I will do everything in my power in Tameside Council and in the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to make it happen.

The Autumn Statement (Part 2): Inaction in the Face of Crisis

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

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Last week I wrote my initial response to the government’s Autumn Statement expressing my disappointment that, despite some encouraging signs when she first took office, the Prime Minister has fallen into the familiar pattern of promising radical action and then failing to deliver in anything like the scale or size required. I said then that starving the country of investment in infrastructure and services and refusing to give much-needed support to struggling families had the potential to be catastrophic to our society and economy.

Unfortunately, it gives me no pleasure to say that as the dust settles it looks like several national organisations are in agreement with me.

Let’s take the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) first. The IFS provides economic analysis independent of the government or any other political interest, and their reports are considered to be authoritative and well-respected. Their conclusions following the Autumn Statement are grim indeed. Their data shows that British workers are in the midst of the longest squeeze in their pay since the 1920s, and that real wages – pay adjusted for inflation – in the UK will not have recovered to their pre-Global Financial Crisis levels in 2021. That’s almost a decade and a half without a pay raise for a large amount of Britain’s workers, with the young and the low-paid being hit particularly hard. When it’s all said and done, the toxic brew of the government’s refusal to reverse cuts to Universal Credit, rising inflation and stagnant pay packets is estimated to cost 11 million households up to £390 a year. That’s money that many families working hard to keep their heads above water cannot afford to lose.

The second issue that is catching attention for all the wrong reasons is the Autumn Statement’s near complete silence on the subject of adult social care. The Association of Directors and Adult Social Services (ADASS) has warned that 62% of councils have faced residential and nursing home closures and 57% have had care providers hand back contracts in the past six months. We know that extra council tax raising powers are not bringing in anywhere near the money required, to say nothing about the unfair burden they place on councils with low tax bases which face higher demand with less ability to pay for it. That means that our residents are at serious risk of not getting the support they need to remain comfortable and independent at the end of their lives. That means that the National Health Service will face further financial and capacity pressures as people stay longer in hospital than they should, or are forced into hospital when they really shouldn’t have to be. A national crisis in adult social care is unfolding right now before our very eyes. National crises demand a national response, and the fact that the government has decided that it is unworthy of immediate financial attention is almost beyond belief.

Any government’s spending commitments tell you more than just the facts about what they’re going to spend; it tells you what their priorities are. Judging by the Autumn Statement so far, the government does not consider addressing a once-in-a-century crisis in living standards to be a priority. It does not consider the dignity and welfare of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens to be a priority. The time has come for them to take responsibility; they must either make extra funding and support available, or come clean about the impact of what they have let unfold on their watch. We will all suffer the consequences if they don’t.

Small Business Saturday

Friday, November 25th, 2016
The wares of a small local business

The wares of a small local business

Here in Tameside, for the fourth year running, we will be celebrating small business Saturday. Taking place on the first Saturday in December, just as most shoppers are beginning to think about buying Christmas gifts, the day highlights the work of the millions of small and medium sized businesses across the country.

The stats tell us that for every £1 spent in a local business between 50p-70p is reinvested locally. Therefore choosing to buy a product at your local shop rather than the out of town supermarket is an effortless way to support your local economy. Tameside Council recognises this importance. As a Borough comprised of 9 distinct towns each with their own identities, having vibrant town centres each with a unique local shopping offer is key to preserving their individuality. That’s why as well as supporting the national Small Business Saturday initiative we run a range of campaigns ourselves too.

Our Tameside Loyalty Scheme is a card that anybody living or working locally is eligible for which can be used to access a range of offers in local businesses. From a £5 discount on an iPhone screen repair in Stalybridge to 10% off stationery supplies in Hyde or money off a new set of dentures in Ashton there is something for everybody covered under the initiative!

Made in Tameside’ highlights the work of local manufacturing companies, many of whom had humble beginnings at kitchen tables or in garages in the Borough. These are local businesses providing local jobs and exporting the Tameside name around the world. Firms such as Tweed Brewing Co., Hyde, who produce beers sold in Manchester’s fashionable northern quarter, or Bradley’s bakery, Ashton, who bake the world famous pork pie wedding cakes or Coleherne engineering, established in 1905, which produce white metal bearings used on the North Sea Statoil platform.

Finally, our local ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme provides a list of approved Tameside based tradespeople in one accessible place. Local people who want to extend their home, need a new boiler, or are looking to have their garden landscaped can go to a ‘one stop shop’ directory knowing that, not only do the tradespeople listed there meet the high standards required by the Council, but also live locally and will be spending the money they earn from your job locally too.

So on Saturday 3rd December, coinciding with the start of the Tameside Christmas markets which itself showcases a range of local traders, we will continue the long tradition of supporting the small local businesses that are the engines of our economy.

Investing in Childcare: Good for Families, Good for Growth

Friday, November 18th, 2016

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One of the more encouraging signs from he new government (and believe me, there haven’t been many) is that it appears to be more willing to invest in what it considers to be vital infrastructure projects. Now, when most people think of infrastructure they think roads, railways and other physical buildings, but there is a human element to infrastructure as well. For example, what if I told you that there is in Britain an infrastructure problem that means that 1 in 4 employees cannot work the hours they would want to work, and causes 1 in 10 to quit their jobs entirely. It causes considerable amounts of stress for families and, in the worse cases, leaves them with less money per month than is considered necessary for a basic standard of living. That problem is the high cost of childcare.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but let’s look at the facts. The Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents shows that 78% of parents of children aged 0-14 in England used some kind of childcare. 59% of those parents pay for it, and the cost is increasing. The price of sending a child under two to nursery part-time (around 25 hours a week) is now £116.77 per week in Britain, or £6072 a year. That’s a 1.1% rise since 2015. To take a fairly common example, a hypothetical family with one child under two in part-time childcare and one child aged five at an after-school club can now expect to pay £7,933 a year for childcare. That’s over 28% of the UK median household income, making British childcare among the most expensive in Europe.

That means that for many parents in Britain, especially those on a lower income, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to find a new job or work more hours. Why would you if any extra money you make (plus a bit more as well) disappears into paying for childcare? Some can rely on family or friends to plug the gap with unpaid or informal childcare, but many do not have that option. You can imagine what happens next. Research by Middlesex University and the BBC has shown that a quarter of UK business leaders say that employees have cut their hours because of childcare costs, and more than 10% said that some staff had quit for the same reason. In total, one third said that childcare, and the availability and cost of it, was a key issue in recruiting and retraining staff.

While there is some government support available for childcare, such as the childcare element of Universal Credit and working tax credits or funding for free nursery places, it is clear that more needs to be done. As with pretty much everything else, government cuts are set to make the situation worse. Even though they’ve promised in increase in free childcare to 30 hours a week, the funding they’ve provided means that 3 out of 4 councils will face a shortfall between the money they receive and the cost of the putting the policy in place. This means that childcare providers will have to cut places or raise fees to make ends meet. If this continues the absolute worst-case scenario, that of councils being unable to meet their statutory duties for childcare, is very much a possibility.

We need to expect far, far better. I would like childcare to be seriously considered as vital infrastructure when it comes to making investment decisions. There might not seem to be many similarities on the surface between building new roads and giving every child in Britain a free nursery place, but a sustainable and high-quality childcare system has the potential to be one of our greatest assets for raising incomes, increasing productivity and reducing inequality. Let’s realise that potential, and stop selling Britain’s children and families short.

Visit http://www.tameside.gov.uk/surestart/nurseryplaces for more information about childcare services in Tameside.

So Much for the End of Austerity

Monday, November 7th, 2016

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With everything that’s gone on in the past few months it’s not surprising that quite a few things, many of which would have been big news had they happened at a quieter time, have slipped under the radar. One of these happened today, as the lowered benefit cap came into force across the country.

It seems like a lifetime ago since it was announced, so allow me to refresh your memory. One of the first policies of the coalition government back in 2010 was to reduce the total sum people could receive in benefits to £26,000 a year for couples with or without children and lone parents. After the General Election in 2015 a further reduction was announced, bringing the cap down to £23,000 a year for families in London, and £20,000 a year for families outside. It is this second cap that takes effect today.

You might ask what difference this will make. The answer is “Quite a bit”. Research by Shelter shows that unless you lived in one of the more expensive bits of London, you would probably not have come up against the 2010 benefits cap. Renting a two bedroom property was still affordable in 94.1% of England for a couple with two children, and if you were a single parent with two children you could afford the same in 96.1% of England.

That isn’t the case as of today. Under the reduced benefits cap areas that nobody would describe as super-expensive have suddenly become unaffordable. That includes pretty much the entire south of England and chunks of Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. All in all, it’s estimated that 57.9% of England will be off-limits. Remember as well that we’re not talking about this affecting tabloid-press caricature families with seventeen children; we’re talking about this affecting couples or single parents with one or two children. That’s a lot of families who woke up this morning facing a struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

More broadly, this policy is a relic from a previous government. We knew what Cameron and Osborne wanted; balancing the books at any price. May and Hammond claim that fairness is their watchword. Where is the fairness in children being denied basic essentials such as food, shelter and heating because it’s been decided that their parents have too large a family, or that they live in the wrong part of the country? Where is the fairness in families from Tameside and elsewhere in the country continuing to pay the price for an austerity that not even the government believes in anymore?

Of course, the main concern of the government is getting people off the welfare bill and saving money, but even here the evidence suggests that, so far, the benefits cap has failed on both. Only 5% of those affected by the previous cap moved into paid work (and, despite what some might think, I’d be willing to bet that for a lot it wasn’t for lack of trying). In terms of savings, the previous benefit cap was estimated to save £65 million last year, but much of these savings went straight back out again through the costs of housing support grants, homelessness and providing skills support. When you look at the big picture, it’s difficult to argue with the IFS’ judgement that any savings from the reduced benefits cap will be “trivial”.

So, to sum up, we have a policy that will cause undue suffering and hardship, which will probably not achieve its goals, and was created to reach a target that no longer exists. On this day, isn’t it time we took a step back and wondered if this is really the kind of country we want to be?

Goodbye to the education bill

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
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Droylsden Academy, one example of the investment in Tameside schools

There was once a time when an education bill was a landmark piece of legislation. The 1944 Education Act, commonly known as ‘The Butler Act’, made clearer the distinction between primary and secondary education that still exists today. The 1976 Education Act formally abolished the 11+ and selectionby ability. The 2000 Learning and Skills Act established academies. How times have changed.

There is no better illustration of the political football that education has now become than the dropping of the most recent education bill. The bill, originally announced in March, set out plans to force all schools to academise by 2022, abolished parent governors and removed the school improvement role of local authorities. Little more than 6 months later, a written statement to parliament, quietly published on Thursday evening, has shelved all of these proposals for good.

As you would expect I have a view about the initial proposals themselves. I also have a view about whether a written statement to parliament is a respectful way to announce the abandonment of plans for such an important area of government responsibility. I even have a view about whether this government has a mandate for the changes it plans to undertake. However, these views are not for this blog today.

What I want to talk about in this blog are the implications for local authorities of this bungled announcement.

Had the Education Bill been passed it would have removed the responsibilities for school improvement from local Councils and placed them in the hands of the regional schools commissioner. In preparation for this, £600 million of cuts to local authorities were pencilled in for next year to reflect the fact that Councils would no longer be delivering this service. However, despite Councils now set to retain their role in school improvement, the cuts are still planned to go ahead. This will leave local authorities woefully under resourced to fulfil their responsibilities to young people.

This isn’t just me as a Labour Council leader sounding off about the cuts. The chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recently described English schools as ‘mediocre but getting better’. Whilst it’s not language I would have used the acknowledgement that schools are improving is welcome, though how can this improvement be sustainable if the money to support it is cut? In addition, the leaders of Kent, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire County Councils have spoken out about being left ‘in limbo’ over how they are expected to fund their school improvement services.

Across the Country there are 20,000 local authority maintained schools and hundreds more academies which purchase school improvement support from the local Council. In Tameside the Council has used its powers and this money to drive the improvement in both schools and academies that, in 2015, saw our GCSE results improve faster than anywhere else in the North West. The haphazard scrapping of their education bill put this all at risk. The government must clearly stipulate the expectations for education that it has of Councils and, when it has decided what these are, allocate the funding to support them.

A Step in the Right Direction.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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In the past I have written quite a bit on why, as a country, we need to champion good business. Businesses that care about more than just the bottom line, and are well-run, well-managed, and committed to environmental sustainability and the welfare of their staff. Unfortunately recent events have shown that we are currently far away from that ideal. Not only have we seen individuals get away with deeply immoral actions, we’ve also seen how the weaknesses in our regulations and legislation have allowed a small number of businesses and business owners to commit and prosper from such actions. Sports Direct, BHS, Deliveroo. The list goes on, with massive consequences for businesses and the communities, workers and pensions that depend on them. We can, and should, expect better.

That’s why I think it’s important to note two very positive developments that occurred last week. On Thursday MPs voted to strip Sir Philip Green, the former head of BHS, of his knighthood for his part in the collapse of the company. I’ve written about the scandal of BHS in more detail here, but the key point is that he took a business that had been a permanent fixture on the British high street for decades, and ended up selling it for £1 with a £571 million pension scheme deficit. It should tell you everything you need to know that the vote to strip him of his knighthood ended up passing completely unopposed. While responsibility for actually making any decision rests with the Honours Forfeiture Committee and not Parliament, it nevertheless sends an uncompromising message.

That being said, far more important to me is that he commits to paying his fair share of tax and reimbursing the BHS pension fund for every single penny of the deficit he inflicted on it. If he does that I’m really not that bothered whether he remains Sir Philip Green or is forced back to being plain old Mr Philip Green. We also need to be careful about falling into the old trap of pinning the blame for all the problems and failures we face onto one man, and ignoring the fact that the system that allowed him to get away with his actions must also take a large share of the responsibility. As long as the rules of the game remain the same, there will always be another Sir Philip Green waiting in the wings.

Changing the rules of the game brings me to the second piece of news, which is that HM Revenue and Customs have set up an “Employment Status and Intermediaries Scheme” that will react to complaints and investigate companies that have declared a high amount of self-employed workers. I cannot welcome this enough. 1 in 7 people in Britain are now self-employed. This is a genuine and rewarding way of making a living for many, but for many others it is little more than an excuse for big companies to avoid their duties and obligations in terms of things like sick pay, holiday pay, the minimum wage and pensions. If this increase in self-employment is here to stay, and I think it is, then reforming our laws and regulations to make sure that nobody risks falling in between the cracks is an urgent priority.

Our economy and society is changing in ways and at a pace that none of us could have foreseen. It falls to government, at all levels, to keep pace with those changes and make sure that no one is left behind. There is undoubtedly more that needs to be done, but by ensuring that the few are held responsible for their actions and defending the many from exploitation, we have taken a few steps towards building the better and fairer Britain that we all want to see.

Solving the Productivity Puzzle

Friday, October 7th, 2016

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If you follow economic or financial news you might have heard the word “productivity” being thrown around quite a bit, usually in a negative sense. Newspapers and publications of every side of the political spectrum have had headlines about the UK’s productivity crisis, from The Guardian’s “Stunted Growth: The Mystery of the UK’s Productivity Crisis” in April this year to The Telegraph’s “Never Mind Benefits, the Problem is UK Productivity” the month before. Well, for once, the headlines are spot on. We do have a productivity crisis, and today I want to explain what that means and why we should be worried about it.

Put simply, productivity is a measure of how well an economy turns inputs such as labour and capital into outputs like revenue, products and services. A high level of productivity means that you can create more stuff with less work/investment, which translates into greater levels of profit for businesses, better wages for employees and higher growth for the economy as a whole. Of course, a low level of productivity causes the opposite.

Historically, UK productivity has typically grown at a steady rate of around 2% a year. Since the 2008 Financial Crisis it has flat lined entirely, to the extent that the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility show an increase in productivity of only 0.1% in eight years. Our productivity now lacks so far behind the likes of France and Germany that workers in those countries can finish on Thursday afternoon what it would take an average British worker until Friday to do.

The picture looks even worse when you break it down to a city-by-city level. Only six of the UK’s 62 cities are more productive than the European average, and five of them are either London or satellites of London (Reading, Milton Keynes, Aldershot and Slough). The odd one out is oil-rich Aberdeen. 38 out of the 62 are not only below average, they’re in the bottom quarter of the table. Productivity in Manchester is 35% lower than in Hamburg, despite the two cities having very similar economies.

We’ve reached this point due to 30 years of economic, social and political decisions from Westminster that have benefitted London and the South East at the expense of the rest of the country, decisions that have been made “to us” instead of “with us”. We lag badly behind when it comes to developing skills and talents; more than ¾ of UK cities are below the European average when it comes to proportions of high-skilled residents. We need massive levels of investment in transport infrastructure outside London to both get goods and services to where they need to be and to increase the size of the pool of employees that businesses can recruit from. We need to encourage, by any means necessary, banks to lend money to the small and medium-sized businesses that could potentially create the next generation of innovative products and services. This is precisely why devolution is so important; it will give us the freedom (and indeed, the responsibility) to meet these challenges head on, delivering Greater Manchester solutions for Greater Manchester issues.

We’re already doing some of this in Tameside and Greater Manchester through skill-boosting projects such as Vision Tameside and infrastructure improvements like electrification of the North West railways, setting up superfast broadband and building the Tameside Interchange. But let’s not kid ourselves; more needs to be done. If we want to continue to be taken seriously as a major economic power outside of the EU, we need to solve Greater Manchester and Britain’s productivity puzzle sooner rather than later.

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