Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's grim down south

Variable pay in the public sector? That must mean the Government wants to pay people more to work in London and the South East and less if they’re north of Watford.

This is, of course, precisely the wrong way round. The Government would be much wiser to reduce pay for civil servants in London and the South East and/or increase it elsewhere.

At the moment, the capital city attracts too many people and costs the rest of us too much money.

A North-South divide in public sector pay would make that much worse.

Prices would rise in the South and fall elsewhere as the “regions” accustomed themselves to becoming second-class citizens.

The more affluent the capital becomes, the more affluent the capital becomes. It’s a vicious circle. It sucks in all the money we can spare so they can have Olympic arenas and cross-city railway lines.

It concentrates power and influence in the hands of those who already regard the possession of power and influence as a birthright. And it leaves the rest of the country out in the cold.

One small example: for every £1 per head spent on public transport in the West Midlands, they get £10 in London and the South East.

Londoners say that’s because their needs are so great, their city is so over-populated and it takes so long to get from A to B.

They’re right. But that’s because London sucks the lifeblood out of the rest of Britain.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

One of the few positive policies adopted by the London-centric media-political axis which runs the country was to force some of the luvvies at the BBC to move to Manchester.

It’s not grim up north but you wouldn’t know it from all the whingeing that’s gone on as a result of this modest adjustment in the way our money gets spent.

Favouring the South because travel costs are high and house prices are extortionate will not simply undo any good the BBC’s move has done. It will be a thousand times worse.

It will make it impossible for most people to move from the regions to London because they will never build up the capital required to find even the most modest lodgings in the capital.

It will entrench the privilege of London and the South East and leave the rest of the country even poorer in comparison than it is now.

The only answer is to reduce pay in London. Get rid of “London weighting” and then get rid of a bit more so that comparable public servants are worse off there than they would be elsewhere.

At a stroke, you would reduce overheating in the South East – where, even now, house prices continue to rise – and give a major boost to economies elsewhere in the country.

Overall, there would probably be a saving to the public purse as well. It would certainly be cost neutral.

People outside London and the South East should not be treated as the poor relations. We should not beg for crumbs at the rich man’s table. We should be given the respect, and the money, we deserve.

Yes, let’s have differential public sector pay scales. But not so that Londoners can be even better off than they are already.

No comments: