Sunday, 6 September 2015

London bias in infrastructure spend

During the last few General Election campaigns, there has been much debate about fair funding for Cornwall, and politicians from the various Westminster parties made pledge upon pledge on this issue.

But our hospitals, schools and vital public services still receive less funding than other parts of the United Kingdom and the situation has been made much, much worse by the devastating cuts to Cornwall’s public sector.

Meanwhile, infrastructure spending by central government is still disproportionately centred on London, as shown by last week’s report from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute.

This documents a massive bias towards the English capital in terms of infrastructure investment, with most other areas getting a raw deal as a consequence.

The report shows that of the projects listed in the “National Infrastructure Pipeline” (published in December 2014) around 42% are attributed to a single English region. Of these, more than half of the planned spending is attributable to London.

Planned public investment per head in London is recorded at £5,304.73, compared to £805.29 per head in the figure for the South West (in which they include Cornwall). Other figures ranged from £413.67 in the North East to £1,946.24 in the North West.

Specific projects identified in the report included the Trans-Pennine rail line modification in the Yorkshire and Humber region (£208 million) and the Midland rail electrification in the East Midlands region (£518 million), but these projects have been indefinitely paused by central government. In contrast, the projects identified in London did not include the Crossrail 2 rail network (estimated cost of £25 billion) and the expansion of Heathrow (estimated cost of £19 billion), showing an even greater fixation on spending in the South East.

The findings of the report – although not exactly coming as a surprise – are truly shocking, and demonstrate that central government needs to rethink its approach to infrastructure investment.

It is my belief that the Westminster parliament should agree an Economic Fairness Act to rebalance the United Kingdom economy away from this present concentration on London, to prioritise investment in disadvantaged areas, and to ensure that areas such as Cornwall really do get their fair share of government spending.

[This will be my article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian].

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