It is a privilege to speak in this Budget debate and to represent my constituents in Barnsley and right across the Sheffield city region. I am proud to represent these communities, but I have come to learn that it is not in the halls of Westminster or the corridors of Whitehall that decisions on many of the issues that affect our communities should be made. Decisions on important issues, such as our public transport system, on how our schools, colleges and universities work together and on where best to invest in our infrastructure, should, where possible, be made locally.
Through devolution, it should be a collective endeavour between the Westminster national Government, combined mayoral authorities and local authorities across our country to work relentlessly together to prepare our people for the challenges of the 21st century. The world has never been more challenging. It is fraught with risk and complexity, but at the same time it is full of opportunity. Technology now connects the far reaches of the planet in ways unimaginable just a generation ago. In reality, however, this is a country where too many of our communities do not believe their best days are in front of them, where too many believe they are being failed by cuts to their vital public services, and where many of our communities feel as though they are ignored because of where and who they are. That is a tragedy. It is also a waste of the ingenuity and potential of so many people.
Along with many others, I am working to grow our economy and connect our talented people to opportunity. With Brexit on the near horizon, in the Sheffield city region, this work is taking shape, and we are making progress. A story is emerging in south Yorkshire that shows that ours is a region that is resurgent, which is hugely significant because for far too long it has been an area characterised by the decline of heavy industry. Now, for the first time in a generation, we are witnessing a growth in advanced manufacturing and highly skilled engineering jobs.
It is this spirit of endeavour and innovation that underpins our work to develop a global innovation corridor to connect our businesses, researchers and urban centres and our international airport in Doncaster to create transformational economic growth, but we are doing it with our hands tied behind our backs. We are served by an outdated and antiquated transport network of trains, buses and trams. The north has so much potential, but it needs the Government to realise and unlock that potential. The northern powerhouse offered a framework to do this, but it requires all of the Government to strain every sinew to reduce the inequalities that exist between north and south.
The Government’s commitment to develop new local industrial strategies is welcome, but to tackle the structural inequalities locked into the regions of this great country, we must make structural changes to the way we prioritise investment. In short, actions speak louder than words, and sadly the Budget is yet another missed opportunity.