Labour must look to the regions

Posted on

From the letters page of the Guardian today:

Your editorial (Economics lessons from Bradford West, 2 April) correctly pinpointed the need for "smart state intervention" to economically rebalance the economy and so rejuvenate the UK's declining regions. Such an approach will need concrete policies and sources of funding to generate the vast number of jobs across a broad range of skills so desperately needed in the towns and cities where the majority live. The Green New Deal group has campaigned since before the credit crunch for a massive country-wide investment programme to make all buildings energy-tight and where feasible powered by renewables such as solar PV. In the economically vulnerable region of the West Midlands, Birmingham is already putting in place a £100m programme to do just that in 15,000 homes in the city.

However, to fund such a programme across the nation a "smart state" should make use of historically low interest rates to set the e-printing presses running for yet more quantitative easing – but this time to be invested directly in such job-generating schemes. UK pension funds could also be enlisted were the government to issue 50-year index-linked bonds that the sector seeks and use the funds to employ people in all the declining regions. This would of course need to go far beyond saving energy to encompass for example maximising recycling and reuse and minimising waste, building low-income homes on brownfield sites and regenerating regional transport infrastructure to benefit local economic activity, rather than shaving tens of minutes off intercity journeys. Only such a "look to the local" emphasis will result in the labour-intensive economic rejuvenation so desperately needed by the Bradford Wests of this country.
Colin Hines
Convenor, Green New Deal Group