'Harborough should get a much better funding deal from the government' - MP's demands ahead of the Budget

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien says the East Midlands region has been underfunded for decades
Harborough MP Neil OBrien has thrown down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of next Wednesdays all-important Budget.Harborough MP Neil OBrien has thrown down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of next Wednesdays all-important Budget.
Harborough MP Neil OBrien has thrown down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of next Wednesdays all-important Budget.

Harborough and South Leicestershire should get a much better funding deal from the government, the local MP has declared.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien has thrown down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of next Wednesday’s all-important Budget.

Mr O’Brien is calling for the East Midlands to urgently receive more cash after years of being treated as a second-class region.

The Conservative MP insisted: “I am a big supporter of Boris Johnson’s agenda to ‘level up’ poorer places.

“It is much needed in the East Midlands, where for decades under different governments we have seen less investment in the things that get the economy and wages growing.”

Mr O’Brien has written a new report finding the most growth-enhancing items of public spending – like transport, innovation, housing and culture - are biased towards London and other high income regions.

He said South Leicestershire and the East Midlands has among the “lowest spending per person” across the board.

“My study finds the East Midlands had the lowest spending of any region in the UK on transport capital and the third lowest on research and development.

“It had the second lowest spending in England on culture and the third lowest on housing infrastructure funds,” said Mr O’Brien.

“That’s despite the East Midlands having average incomes 13 per cent below the national average.

“And this, sadly, is not new.

“It’s been the case under governments of all political parties for many decades.”

He spelled out where the government needs to do better for the East Midlands:

TRANSPORT

Capital spending on transport in London was around £6,600 per head between 2007/8 and 2018/19. This was more than three times higher than in the East Midlands (£1,880) and nearly three (2.75) times the average in the rest of England (£2,400).

INNOVATION

Taking direct government spending and research funding for universities together, London saw R&D funding per head nearly twice the UK average - £3,900 compared to a national average of £2,300 over the period 2001 to 2017. Spending in the East Midlands was just £1,440.

HOUSING.

Spending on affordable housing in the current (2016-21) programme is five times higher per head in the capital: £650 per head compared to £120 per head in the rest of England and £116 in the Midlands as a whole.

Funding to unlock housing supply (including infrastructure to support private housing) is also concentrated in the south.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund has spent £115 per head in the East of England, £97 in London, and £95 in the South East, compared to just £18 in the East Midlands.

CULTURE

Taking Arts Council England spending and direct DCMS funding of national institutions together, London received around half (47%) of the total spending in England over the period 2010/11 to 2017/18.

Over the period culture funding per head in London was £687.

This was nearly five times the average in the rest of England (£144) and over 13 times the East Midlands (£51).

Mr O’Brien is making crucial recommendations to the Treasury ahead of the Budget and forthcoming Spending Review.

He’s urging new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “use every tool at his disposal” to level up regional growth.

“We are spending nearly half the core research budget in just three cities, Oxford, Cambridge and London.

“We should be investing less in pure academic research and more in projects that will lead to business growth and more good jobs, like the proposal to grow satellite manufacturing in Leicester,” said Mr O’Brien.

“There are promising signs the new government is thinking about changing the approach which has prevailed for decades.

“That has led to the East Midlands being short-changed compared to wealthier areas.”

Mr O’Brien is a former economic adviser to Chancellor George Osborne (2012–2016) and Prime Minister Theresa May (2016–17).

He is Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Ministry of Justice and was formerly PPS at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.