When William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings and travelled North, the ensuing ‘Harrying of the North’ campaign subjugated and impoverished Northern England; and evidence of the North-South divide being eradicated in the intervening centuries is, to say the very least, sparse.
We may no longer need to concern ourselves with marauding kings, but the divide remains; geographically, politically, economically, and culturally. Terrifyingly, 5 years after the launch of the Northern Powerhouse concept, 200,000 more children in the North of England are living in poverty, foreign investment has plummeted and the number of cancelled or late trains has more than doubled. Interest in the project certainly waned following the departure of George Osborne from parliament but this is no excuse for figures released by IPPR North that show a £3.6bn cut in public spending in the North since 2010 compared to a £4bn rise in the South. The divide is indeed yawning, perhaps due to a lack of influence at Treasury to keep it on the agenda, vitally, not just out of reticence, but a deliberate favouring of the South.
In the wake of this, Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service has urged the government to take lessons from Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall in investing heavily to reunify the nation. Germany invested €1.5tn to do so, and Lord Kerslake has suggested the setting up of a £250bn ‘national renewal fund’.
So, in the face of these facts, figures and suggested routes to improvement, can we find cause for optimism, however cautiously and defiantly? I believe so, and in fact, I would argue that we’re actually in a very encouraging position, and here’s why.
From a business perspective, the North currently exports more than £50bn of goods globally, one in five professionals are leaving the capital and heading North, and the value of the ‘Northern Pound’ (Totaljobs/Jobsite 2019) reached £1.17. We’re fundamentally happier in the North than our Southern counterparts too. 53% of Londoners would accept a lower salary in pursuit of a better quality of life whilst coincidentally, 53% of Geordies wouldn’t relocate even if they could earn more, that figure sits at 46% for Northerners more generally.
With 40% of recruiters nationwide reporting that attracting good quality candidates is their biggest headache, should we be making a more concerted effort to attract and hire talent from the South on the back of the evidence that a better quality of life can be achieved here? This is not just a consideration for recruiters but for businesses too. Our Technical & Engineering Manager, Tony Hutchinson, recently relocated an Engineer from the Midlands to Sunderland and the hiring client paid for a full month of hotel accommodation whilst the candidate found somewhere to live more permanently. It doesn’t end there, another client of ours offers an additional 3 months salary up front to facilitate the relocation of a new hire so clearly, the opportunities are there, and crucially, so is the support.
In conclusion then, investment in the reunification of the North and South is vital to the improvement and success of the North to bring it in line with the years of prosperity enjoyed in the South, which some would argue came at our expense. Given the reticence which the Northern Powerhouse concept has been met with since George Osborne left parliament however, we can’t afford to hold our breath waiting for it. With typical Northern grit, we must survive and indeed thrive, coupling a better quality of life with the ability to make one of the Queen’s pound coins go almost 20% further. It’s not so grim up North, we promise!
Westray Recruitment Consultants are proudly family-owned and run, providing recruitment consultation to clients and candidates across the North-East since 1990. For questions and advice on relocating within any sector or discipline, don’t hesitate to give our consultants a (strictly confidential) call on 0191 4926622.More blog posts
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