London-based government is not the answer for the shires
- Credit: Archant
As a place, I rather like London. As someone who lives in Ipswich I like the fact that I can be in the West End within 90 minutes or at Stratford with the Olympic Park and gateway to Dockland within 60.
However, the level of political influence imposed on us by the central government – and its apparatchiks in Whitehall – means that in some ways London is proving a malign influence on the development of the rest of the country.
The answer, of course, is for more powers to be devolved to regions – but frankly I have no confidence that will happen, especially not to places like Suffolk or Norfolk.
What angers me about the relationship with central London is the condescending attitude you pick up from any civil servant based in the capital to anyone or anything based outside the M25.
And it isn’t just civil servants. The whole “society elite” of London tends to look down its noses at those of us who choose not to make our life there.
Last weekend a columnist in a national newspaper referred to people “buying turnips” at Bury St Edmunds market – clearly showing a total lack of knowledge and overdose of prejudice about one of the most desirable places to live in the country!
Since the Scottish referendum there has been a great deal of talk about devolution of powers in England – but I fear that we won’t actually see any powers devolved to this part of the world.
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The government is talking about giving more power to “city regions” – but they’re talking about huge northern cities like Manchester and Leeds, not regional cities like Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester (okay so we don’t all have city status but we’re generally considered city-sized).
Shire counties like Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk aren’t seen as a priority by London-centric politicians and civil servants.
So far as the Tory politicians are concerned we’re nice Conservative areas who will be happy with whatever crumbs we get from London’s table.
So far as the civil servants are concerned we’re nice places to commute from but we don’t have the economic problems of the north so they’re happy to let sleeping dogs lie.
And so far as Labour is concerned, we’re never likely to send more than a handful of their MPs to Parliament so we don’t deserve too much help from them!
I’m also slightly disappointed that Suffolk County Council – whose leader Mark Bee was very keen to talk about devolution immediately after the referendum – now seems to be taking its time in drawing up its response.
In the meantime Manchester, backed by local MP and Chancellor George Osborne, has been quick to make its case for more powers.
I just hope that our councils have not missed the bus for the trip to devolution.