Campaign for the North is a new cross-party organisation working towards a regional government for the North of England. Here, the organisation’s campaign director sets out its ambitions. What do you think? Let us know via Twitter @Northern_Soul_or in our comment thread below.
In the wake of the Scottish Referendum, serious questions have been raised regarding the very nature of democracy in Britain. With this seismic shift, a number of new organisations have emerged which seek to wrestle power from Westminster and devolve it back to the most important group in society: ordinary people.
For too long, the North in particular has been disregarded by a political class obsessed with centralising all economic activity around London. With the eighth strongest economy in the EU, abundant resources and a rich history of innovation, we Northerners are owed a lot more than we are given.
It is for this reason that we established Campaign for the North, a cross-party organisation seeking devo-max (full fiscal autonomy) for the North of England. We want an empowered Northern government with tax-raising powers so that Northerners never have to go cap in hand to Westminster again.
If you believe in a creating a strong, Northern government with genuine autonomy from Whitehall then read on to find out more about our vision.
How would our ideas work in practice?
1) Tax-raising powers for the North: The North, if devolved, would have the eighth largest economy in the European Union. Northerners are sitting on a wealth of resources that could be used to create a strong, vibrant economy that works for everyone.
2) A unitary police force for Northern England: The North’s eleven police forces should be merged together. There is substantial evidence that a unitary policing body for the North of England would improve services dramatically. In an age of increasingly mobile crime networks, the North needs a joined up police force to ensure that we have a comprehensive strategy for tackling crime across the entire region. Merging the North’s disparate police forces would also reduce unnecessary administrative costs and allow for funds to be reinvested into struggling communities.
3) The co-location of the North’s emergency services: Similarly to the issue of policing, there is strong evidence that supports merging the North’s emergency services together. This would create economies of scale and allow for a more efficient service.
4) A long-term strategy for healthcare: Healthcare policy should focus on a whole system approach, whereby the many factors that impact our health are properly addressed. This would allow for an optimised system that genuinely seeks to take care of people from ‘cradle to grave’. Our ambition is to create a healthcare system that provides ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
5) A first-class education system: Education should be affordable for all. We advocate free education for all Northern children up to the point of their first degree or a meaningful vocational qualification. We should be able to ‘hypothecate tax’ directly into our education system and ensure that there is a much stronger partnership between education and industry.
6) A Bank of the North: A regional bank that invests in communities and allows the North to develop a sustainable, innovative economy centred on the development of industries of the future.
7) A pan-Northern transport network: An integrated pan-Northern transport system that works in the interest of businesses and people.
8) A close partnership with the EU: We are wholly in favour of the UK’s continued membership of the European Union and believe that withdrawal from the EU would be disastrous for the North of England.
9) A sustainable North: We need a sustainable, environmentally-friendly economy in the North of England that integrates the North’s cities with their surroundings, incorporates best practice into every sector of government, promotes the development of new energy technologies and ensures the protection of our unique natural heritage.
By Michael Dawson, Campaigns Director, Campaign for the North
Main image: The Sage Gateshead at night by Mark Savage
To sign up to the campaign, follow this link: www.campaignforthenorth.com