Ministers should support 'failing' towns says Heseltine

Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine Lord Heseltine was known as the "Minister for Merseyside" in the 1980s

The former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has dismissed claims that "failing" towns and cities should be abandoned by the government.

An article in The Economist suggested that a number of industrial towns were "decaying" and their inhabitants should be encouraged to find jobs elsewhere.

The magazine listed Hull, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool as places where "dollops of public money" had failed to boost the local economy, despite years of heroic effort.

The article has caused an outcry in Hull, where the city council leader described its recommendations as "disgusting".

In an interview for the Sunday Politics in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Lord Heseltine said similar claims were made about Liverpool in the 1980s.

Michael Heseltine was appointed by Margaret Thatcher to lead the regeneration of Liverpool, following riots in the city in 1981.

The former Conservative cabinet minister claims the best way to stimulate economic growth in deprived towns and cities is to devolve more power away from Whitehall.

Lord Heseltine said: "What I have argued over decades is that we should say to cities what would you do?

"Because you know what Leeds needs, what Bradford needs and what Hull needs."

Former Liverpool MP Peter Kilfoyle told me there had been numerous calls over the years to turn-off the government spending taps on Merseyside.

Mr Kilfoyle, who served as a Labour minister under Tony Blair, said: "We had a think-tank a few years ago which said that Liverpool should be abandoned and everybody should move to the south.

"This is nonsense. Any forward looking government would want to invest in Hull, just as they invested in Liverpool."

Cabinet papers from 1981 reveal the chancellor of the exchequer at the time - Sir Geoffrey Howe - raised the possibility of a programme of "managed decline" in Liverpool.

However, Lord Howe recently said there was never a suggestion that Liverpool should be abandoned by the Conservative government in the 1980s.

Tim Iredale Article written by Tim Iredale Tim Iredale Political editor, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    What "These" Towns need is a level playing field. I read with distaste people who say the contain lazy people - what a load of b******t . What is needed creative thinking and that has been lacking in the governments of all persuasions. London is not the centre of the universe It is draining money and resources from elsewhere in the UK. Throwing just money at places no - Creative thinking yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    In a balanced economy some areas will prosper more than others but the North's industry sustained Britain for hundreds of years. Their factories offered jobs and social housing all aided the local economy which meant low welfare costs and a boost to our national GDP. So the moral and economic benefits of maintaining so called failing towns is clear. Failure to do it is pure warped ideology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Typical of southern based hacks and economists - Hull has a vibrant port, plenty of engineering, chemical & pharmaceutical skills but due to our relative geographical isolation has always had higher than average unemployment. We face Europe and will be the hub for renewable energy. The city has also never had funds thrown at it in the form of Full Development status like the NE has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Whaling and then fishing brought prosperity to Hull. This in turn brought an expansion of engineering and manufacturing industry. The people are as bright and as skilled as anywhere in England and need only the initial investment to prove it. We need to adopt the same laser-like focus that China and others bring to their industrial strategy. Make it happen, chaps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    We have in this country a lack of oil refining and LNG processing capacity going forward. Middlesbrough and Hull have the engineering background to support these. Usual story, politicians both local and national with no appreciation of oil and gas engineering in terms of set up or operation.


Comments 5 of 32



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