MP Pat McFadden responds to calls for an end to investment in ‘failing’ cities such as Wolverhampton.
The argument is that cities like ours, propped up in the early 2000s by Government spending, are now in terminal decline and even that future policy should be focussed on helping people leave rather than doomed regeneration efforts.
The Economist is wrong to advocate giving up on cities like Wolverhampton. That is a counsel of despair. But we also need a hard-headed response to some of the other things the magazine said.
The Economist argues that a number of smaller English cities including Wolverhampton are facing economic problems not shared by their bigger neighbours. That is true. Smaller cities which were dependent on manufacturing have often struggled to find new purpose as manufacturing declined. Such cities have fewer economic pieces on the board, fewer sources of new jobs to replace the old.
Where the Economist is mistaken is to underestimate the degree of economic strength that still exists in Wolverhampton. The huge Jaguar Land Rover investment is mentioned in their article but its importance is underplayed.
A £500m investment creating 1,400 new jobs and thousands more in the supply chain is not marginal. It is one of the biggest manufacturing investments in recent UK history. And it is happening right on our doorstep.
Another strength is the city’s aerospace cluster, giving us an important place in a sector expected to grow internationally in the coming years. Aerospace wasn’t even mentioned by the Economist.
The Economist points to the high unemployment rate in Wolverhampton and other cities. My constituency is consistently among the top 20 in the UK for unemployment. And it is also high in the league where people have no qualifications. Education and employment are related.
The best response to The Economist’s view would be a shared resolve right across the public and private sectors in the city to face up to where we are weak, and make the most of the strengths we have – then we can have a thought out and comprehensive response to those who would write us off.