FOR 10 years, Conservative administrations widened the North-South divide by halving local government funding and making savage cuts in welfare spending that disproportionally hit the North. The pandemic is now making this worse.

An analysis by the UK2070 Commission shows Britain to be the most inter-regionally unequal large high-income country in the world. The Trussell Trust reports the use of foodbanks is now at 30 times its 2010 level, and over this period healthy life expectancy in the North has fallen. Since the pandemic, unemployment is returning to 1990s rates. It has doubled in northern cities, particularly Hull and Middlesbrough, and is set to get much worse.

CCN, the County Council’s Network, says over half of its member councils are planning “moderate or severe” service reductions in adult social care, a third are seeking heavy cuts to road repair budgets, and a third are cutting back their library services. Yet the UK is the sixth richest country in the world.

Despite its promises of “levelling up”, the government’s response to this imbalance has been minimal. Of the £280bn spent so far on the pandemic, £10.5bn was directly awarded – without tendering or competition – to companies with Tory connections.

By contrast, the Levelling-up Fund is a mere £4bn, which must be shared among eight English regions. A recent report by IPPR North says “Unfortunately this will be a centrally-administered fund, thereby missing an opportunity to strengthen devolution, build on the local knowledge and expertise of combined and local authorities”.

What we need is massive investment in the North and regeneration of local, democratically accountable decision-making. The hopes for a One Yorkshire devolved authority with real clout was opposed by our local MP Kevin Hollinrake and rejected last year by the Government. Westminster gives us empty promises while using the pandemic as cover to sell off the NHS, impoverish the regions and further centralise its power.

Dr Peter Williams, Malton

Put a limit on it

I AM fully in support of free parking in our towns to help encourage people to visit and spend in local businesses.

However, to put no time limit at all on a stay makes no sense as it will reduce turnover of spaces (churn) and could mean car parks are full of long-term stayers.

I am sure most business would prefer a three-hour free period, time to look, shop, eat, but allowing spaces to turn over.

Given the initiative introduced between now and March will have an impact on the district’s finances, it is important to monitor and review the scheme.

This is why I was happy to vote for an amendment building in a review, which was defeated.

I am sure residents, businesses and visitors will be consulted during the run up to Christmas so that beneficial changes can be made in the spring.

Cllr William Oxley, Malton

Amazing service

I WENT for my flu jab at 8am last Saturday along with many others.

I would like to praise the doctors and nurses at the fantastic Derwent Surgery for their professional, caring and efficient service.

I think all the volunteers should be given a shout out as well as they were amazing directing traffic and taking everyone’s names etc prior to getting in to the surgery.

What an amazing service we had. Proud to live in such a great place.

Cllr Lindsay Burr, Norton