Government warned: North/South divide investment plan based on ‘false narrative’
The new government has been warned that it must not leave the South East behind as it seeks to ‘level up’ investment between the North and South.
The chairman of Greater Brighton, Cllr Daniel Humphreys, said a "false narrative" had been allowed to arise which suggested the south had been favoured when it came to government investment and projects.
He said: "We cannot let this story become an accepted part of government narrative. We are simply not flowing with cash. In fact we are actually not getting our fair share.
"Any investment plans must take in the needs of the entire country and acknowledge the importance of the contribution individual regions make to the entire economic wellbeing of the country.
"As Greater Brighton chairman I will make sure our case is put firmly to the new government. All we are asking for is fairness."
He was responding to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to ‘level up’ opportunities across the UK and ensure the North is no longer the poor relation when it comes to spending on transport, industrial and digital infrastructure.
But Cllr Humphreys said that spending on road and transport in the South East was already lagging behind. He added that 75 per cent of the grants to revive towns and cities under the government’s MyTown programme had gone to places in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands despite the clear needs of communities in the Greater Brighton area.
Cllr Humphreys said: "We all know we have areas of deprivation and skills shortages here that need as urgently addressing as they do anywhere else in the country."
Cllr Humphreys told a meeting of the Greater Brighton Economic Board that the South East was home to 7.5 million people, a figure that will grow by 16 per cent in the next 25 years.
He said that at £200 billion per annum the region was the second-highest contributor to the economy after London and yet the amount of public spending per head, at £8,100, was the lowest in the UK. This was 10 per cent lower than the national average and 20 per cent lower than London.
He called on the government to back the £300m scheme to upgrade the Brighton main line to London near East Croydon. The bottleneck at Windmill Junction causes delay and knock-on delay across the network every time an incident occurs and it means there is no capacity to run more trains to meet future passenger growth, leading to overcrowding in the years ahead unless action is taken.