Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP recently announced radical plans to move a huge part of the Treasury from London to the north. The proposed £250bn national unit seeks to reverse the neglect of the north, address regional inequalities in the economy and devolve decision-making to regional and local levels.
I think it should be in Bradford.
If a General Election is going to be announced in the next few days, this is my pitch to John McDonnell to choose Bradford for the northern Treasury.
By relocating part of the Treasury to Bradford you would be making a bold statement of intent and resolve to address the effects of inequality and deindustrialisation and what it has meant to places, people and pride. It would be a powerful symbol of hope, that change is possible, that politics and big ideas matter.
The more I think about the northern Treasury being based in Bradford, the more I like it. So here are my 11 reasons that No. 11 North should be based in Bradford:
- Bradford represents and is at the heart of the challenges facing our country – the need for good, useful, well-paid jobs; stagnating living standards; industrial and high street decline; the imbalance of the economy; and a democratic deficit leaving people anxious and pessimistic about the future. The purpose of what the move north wants to achieve is everything that is needed in Bradford and everything that the Treasury needs to address.
- Bradford was at the forefront of the first industrial revolution. It became one of the richest cities in Europe in the 19th century (although of course this wealth was not evenly shared and poverty for working people was rife). But deindustrialisation has hit Bradford hard. We lost tens of thousands of solid, well-paid, unionised jobs. Despite our best efforts, we have struggled to recover. However, with the right investment and industrial strategy we are well placed to be at the centre of this new industrial revolution.
- Bradford was named the best place to start a business in the UK and, despite its problems, the city still has the fourth largest number of manufacturing jobs in the country. New tech businesses and social enterprises are adding to the city’s economic potential.
- Bradford is the youngest, most diverse city in the country with more than a quarter of its population under 20. But levels of social mobility are low. We need to tackle inequalities so that every child has the chance to flourish. The opportunity is there to make a positive, long-lasting impact and build on the enthusiasm and talents of our young people.
- Bradford has always been at the forefront of new, radical ideas from free schooling and school meals to workers’ homes in Saltaire. It was the birthplace of the Independent Labour Party. The mural commemorating the event reads “There is no weal save commonweal.” Bradford could be at the heart of community wealth building change.
- Where Bradford was once known for its dark satanic mills, let’s build a new sustainable, low-carbon, green economy that works for everyone. As an innovative, creative city we could be at the heart of increasing participation, common ownership and finding imaginative, collective solutions to the problems we face.
- Bradford is leading the way in the creative economy. It is the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, it has one of the oldest concert halls still in use in St George’s Hall, a thriving Literature Festival and a wealth of community-building organisations – Freedom Studios, Commonwealth Theatre, Kala Sangam, Mind the Gap, Brickbox and Wur Bradford.
- Bradford is physically in the centre of the country. This makes it a perfect location both symbolically and to coordinate and improve transport infrastructure, both north/south and east/west. The district has rural and urban communities, so a Bradford Treasury would be close to both economies.
- We are surrounded by stunning Victorian civic architecture and often empty mills and shops, a reminder of our industrial heritage and previous wealth which reinforces a feeling of being forgotten and disconnected. These assets and spaces are crying out to be re-purposed.
- Like many post-industrial areas, Bradford voted to leave the European Union (54-46). We’re almost a perfect representation of the country divide. Let’s show what taking back control really means with the rebalancing, north-shoring and democratisation of the economy.
- Bradford needs this. We are proud, hardy and resilient, but the economic decline of the last 40 years has knocked our spirit. I am tired of hearing “Leeds always gets it, we miss out”. We have “huge resources simply left idle by economic policies that concentrate on places already doing well.” Let’s change that narrative. A Bradford Treasury would be a massive boost for our confidence and civic pride built on real, solid, meaningful foundations.
The choice of Bradford would show that a northern Treasury is in the right place to make the changes we so desperately need.