Rebalancing Act

I had dinner last night at The Hilton Hotel – cooked rather well by students from NCN. Amongst those on the table were Councillor Nick McDonald from Nottingham City Council and Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North.


The topic of conversation was the imbalance in Nottingham between the (relative) well-off South and the poor North. This may be too simplistic a headline – but the geography tells different stories.

Graham’s constituency is seemingly in the lowest 10 in the UK – in terms of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and social deprivation. Some of the constituents are third generation “out of work”.

It is easy to forget that across a large City like Nottingham that there is a wide variance in fortunes. We do tend to forget this when we see the good things (many of which I have blogged about here). There are some areas of desperation.

Graham and Nick are championing how we rebalance the local economy. It is no easy task – the loss of some of the major manufacturing and employers (coal, Raleigh, Imperial Tobacco and others) is still being felt 30 years after some of these changes occurred.

I am not sure that we have easy answers. It is going to take a long time – but ‘education’ was clearly one area where we all felt some change could be made. Getting kids to school and then to College is part of that process. But is also important that we train kids with skills they can use. We need to stop teaching them all ‘Geography’! (Sorry Geography teachers everywhere – you know I don’t mean that literally!). They need Maths and English. And life-skills.

I was blind to the suggestion that some of this generation of kids in some of these communities are not even contemplating ‘work’. That we have to fix.

Lord Heseltine swings by …

Yesterday Lord Heseltine was in our fair city. He is meeting up with the LEP’s to see what progress they are making on their various grand plans. I was amongst a mixed group of public and private sector representatives invited to quiz him at his meeting with D2N2.


They always say a good politician won’t answer a question. But Heseltine is better than that. I don’t think he ducked any questions. But his answers were clever. On the face of it I thought they were surprisingly candid. But afterwards thought that they were really shrewd.

One of the frustrations of many people in the room was the application process that is the gatekeeper to Government money. It seems perplexing to some (who give up) and frustrating to others (who battle on bravely). Civil servants can take on the mantle of ‘Business Prevention Officers’ at times. Heseltine said several times – ‘we need to make sure we’re getting value for money‘. This is right and proper – it is taxpayers money after all.

But then he said something quite surprising. He suggested that this frustration about process wasn’t known about in Government. No one was feeding that back. So, in the absence of such feedback, how was Government to know?

He then suggested that those folks scarred and bruised by the process should ‘fight back’. We should challenge the system. Make a noise – kick off (my phrases not his).

I smiled at the thought – it appeals to my troublemaking side.

But then I considered what he had said. His advice is difficult to follow. Firstly getting at the right person is never easy. Secondly, there might also be another opportunity to apply for funds again – and calling those who judge such things horrid names might be a short term feel-good moment and long term financial loss. It’s not easy to challenge the behemoths of Government departments.

After all, as he wisely said, Government won’t let go of power because they don’t think we are capable of making things work!