Include South East in ‘decade of renewal’, urges Partnership
Brand new Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce his first budget on 11 March following claims his predecessor, Sajid Javid, made that it will usher in a ‘decade of renewal’. The Coastal West Sussex Partnership, however, is urging the Chancellor not to leave the South East behind in his plans for the country.
Sunak is expected to direct £100bn in investment for roads, rail, broadband and other infrastructure to the North and the Midlands. It is understood that the Treasury will alter rules around public spending to deliver this boost.
The Coastal West Sussex Partnership, which collaborates with the public and private sectors on economic issues, is concerned that the budget will overlook dire need for investment in swathes of the South East.
“Central government is blindly focused on the North. If this is a ‘decade of renewal’, and rulebooks are being ripped apart in order to siphon money to the North and the Midlands, we know that this actually means ten years of hardship for parts of the South East,” explains Coastal West Sussex Partnership Chairman Henry Powell.
“Our region is suffering due to sweeping generalisation. Being near a wealthy area like London does not automatically make a region affluent. If you remove London from the equation, the South East gets the lowest investment per capita than anywhere else in the country. Across the south east, 31% of our local authorities are in the top 50% of those most deprived nationally, many of these are along the south coast.”
In 2018-19, public spending per person in the South East was the third lowest at £11,784. In the North West, 12,939 was spent per person. In the North East, the figure rose to £13,560. The South East is the only part of the country that runs a fiscal surplus, meaning it receives less in investment than it contributes through taxation.
“Our region has proximity to London, but it does not have strong enough infrastructure to benefit from it. The congested A27 is a key example of infrastructure failing local people,” explains Powell.
“If the Chancellor is serious about ‘levelling up’ the country’s skills, he must go further than simply reversing or partially reversing cuts. Large numbers of our residents along the coast, both children and young people as well as adults, have no qualification and that’s a situation that needs urgent attention.
“When it comes to commercial development, we would like to see the government help coastal communities remain vibrant and economically prosperous by shifting the emphasis to mixed use sites that offer both employment and homes.
“We sincerely hope that the government’s tunnel vision for the north does not come at a cost to our region. Whatever the budget contains, we will remain a rallying voice for local people and businesses.”