Keys to prosperity in the north’s great cities | Letters

Readers respond to Preston’s success, Channel 4’s move to Leeds and Simon Jenkins’ proposal to move parliament to the north with ideas for a new political landscape

Channel 4’s move to Leeds must be just the beginning (Channel 4 chooses Leeds as its new UK headquarters, 1 November). The ambitions of this public service broadcaster must go beyond relocating 200 staff up the M1. To make a truly significant contribution, it must act as an “anchor” of a fairer and more sustainable local economy.

This means working with other anchor institutions like the city council, universities, NHS trusts and the police to pay fair wages, buy local, and to invest in the city and its people. By adopting this approach, Preston council and their anchors have generated £200m for the Lancashire economy. This strategy undoubtedly played a role in Preston being named as Britain’s most improved city.

Channel 4’s remit tasks it with “innovation, experiment and creativity”. It now has the chance to do that, not just on screen but within its new community too.
Claire McCarthy
General secretary, the Co-operative party

• I was fascinated by your article on Preston’s economic transformation (Preston, Corbynomics’ poster child, named as most improved city, 1 November). This is an inspiring story of how a local community with a Labour-led council can pull itself out of the economic mire by employing a radical, localised approach. Its imaginative use of public-sector spending is a kick in the teeth to those who think only the free market holds the key to prosperity. The government should be trumpeting Preston’s success to the world – but of course it won’t.

I’m hoping my own hard-pressed area of Thanet, in east Kent, can learn from Preston’s experiences. We’ve invited Neil McInroy, chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (one of the pioneers of the Preston model), to share his secrets at a public meeting later this month. We must get the word out – think global, spend local.
Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt
Labour parliamentary candidate for South Thanet

• Simon Jenkins (C4 acquires a northern soul. Who’s next?, Journal, 2 November) decries parliament’s London base, advocating that it moves north. Surely it should be fairly and squarely in the middle. Nottingham is precisely in the middle of the country. Close to the M1, it has an airport and the railway station is in the centre of town. Behind the station are acres of vacant land waiting to be developed. Building here would be much cheaper than London. Surely parliament does not have to be in a major city? Think Canberra and Brasília.

Besides, if parliament made Nottingham its home, maybe we would get the electrification of our mainline rail services, which we were promised then denied.
Judy Liebert
Nottingham

• If government is to be relocated to the north while parliament is refurbished, could it not be based in either Bickerton or Blubberhouses, both beautiful Yorkshire settings?
Fr Alec Mitchell
Manchester

• Preston is also ideally situated geographically to become the federal capital of the UK, being 230, 187, 210 and 257 miles respectively from London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Geoff Naylor
Winchester, Hampshire

• Simon Jenkins welcomes Channel 4’s decision to locate in Leeds but provides a necessary cautionary note. However, like many of those who compare Leeds with Manchester as the two northern lights, he does not appreciate the different geographical imperatives of the two cities. Manchester is overwhelmingly the focal point of its region, whereas Leeds has to relate to the separate towns of Bradford, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Halifax, all of which have significant green areas between them.

These socially and culturally different cities and towns have rightly moved local politicians away from a provocative Leeds city region towards a One Yorkshire initiative as a way of building on their identities and balancing the strengths of Sheffield and Hull within a single powerful region capable of taking on the further devolution of health, national agencies and taxation which Simon Jenkins rightly emphasises.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

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• The second letter in this package was amended on 5 November 2018 to correct the name of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

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