Middleton Park Councillor Judith Blake led calls to address what she described as the “depressing” inequalities in the UK economy at the UK2070 Commission National Symposium on Thursday (13 June 2019).
The Leeds City Council Leader is a member of the Commission of the independent inquiry, which was established last year to investigate and propose measures to reduce the country’s regional inequalities.
Addressing the meeting at Leeds Civic Hall, Cllr Blake emphasised the need to devolve powers and funding across the UK’s cities and regions to redress the imbalances favouring London and South East England.
“It has been both fascinating and at times depressing to see just how deep-rooted geographical inequalities are across the UK,” Blake said.
“If powers and funding can be given back to local government, we can steer a course which can improve the aspirations, opportunities and lives of our citizens and make a difference.
“It is no accident Leeds is the only city with an Outstanding Ofsted rating for children’s services and the only UK city seeing a decline in reception-age children obesity, particularly in our least well-off areas.
“These achievements are the result of deliberate local policies, an example of what we can achieve.”
Blake, who is also Chair of the Core Cities UK Network, added:
“Behind this economic story lies a human one. This is about people. It’s about lives. It’s about lives being ruined and life chances being created.
“Our agenda must see central government and investment brought closer to people, made more relevant to the places they care about and the lives they lead.
“Investment and powers must be fairly distributed, with prosperity not sucked towards the capital, but shared across every part of the UK.”
Hunslet and Riverside Councillor Paul Wray was among the attendees, which also included the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine.
The inquiry is due to release its final report in January 2020 after the release of its initial report this summer.
Photo: Joseph Dancey via Twitter