Two years ago on Yorkshire Day, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of Yorkshire’s voice being strangled and the region being ignored by Westminster, I ‘gagged’ the statue of Dickie Bird in Barnsley town centre. (no harm was done and I ‘ungagged’ him after I’d taken some photo’s) Two Yorkshire Day’s later and nothing has changed. Yorkshire seems as far away as it ever was from getting rid of the shackles that Westminster use to hold it back and we are all paying the price – particularly our children. We seem as far away now as we were on that early August 1st morning in 2016 when I took my little step ladders and managed to clamber up to Dickie to pay my respects from taking responsibility for our own future.
We still have far less spent on infrastructure than London and the South East (£1 here on railways for every £9 in London as just one example). However the difference in my own field of secondary education is particularly stark and with school budgets becoming more and more parlous, this aspect is becoming critical. If Barnsley where I live and Sheffield where I work were fairly funded to the extent not just of the money bags in London but our near neighbours across the pennines, then schools in this region wouldn’t now be seriously considering and planning for making teachers redundant.
The block funding for 2018-19 highlights the contempt Westminster shows for some of our poorest boroughs. The block funding for each secondary school pupil in Barnsley during the next academic year is £4729.02. Sheffield students get £150 more than their Barnsley secondary contemporaries. Barnsley’s figure is the second LOWEST in England. Only York (yes another Yorkshire borough) gets less (£24 per pupil less).
Let us put this in perspective. If the same secondary aged pupil was educated in Manchester they would be funded to the tune of £1320 MORE! Nottingham would be £1140 more, Birmingham £1050 more. If they were lucky enough (??) to live in London however they could expect to attract an extra £3000!
How can it be morally and ethically justifiable that the same student can attract such disparate funding just by virtue of where they live? I know the cost of living is greater in London but £3000 more? That is just a sick joke. The cost of living in places like Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham is surely not that much higher than Barnsley or Sheffield and the demographic and deprivation issues no worse than Barnsley’s or Sheffield’s so why is over £1000 extra being spent per pupil in these places? For a moderate sized secondary school of about 1000 pupils this would add £1 million to the budget of a Barnsley or Sheffield secondary school if it were funded even close to near neighbours in Manchester and Nottingham.
They say we get the leaders we deserve. I disagree – we deserve far better than the leadership we are getting across Yorkshire and down in Westminster. These are the people who should be screaming loudly about how unfairly we in Yorkshire are being treated. Instead they bicker amongst themselves like ferrets in a sack. Three months after the election of Mr Jarvis as mayor of South Yorkshire with precisely no power, we seem no further towards a deal that would unite this wonderful county.
I don’t want to be writing about the same old unfairness during Yorkshire Day next year. Westminster wants to divide and rule by breaking the historic county of Yorkshire into convenient, city dominated regions. This will just exacerbate the decline and decay of towns like Barnsley, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington et al. We are a region with a population greater than Scotland and an economy twice that of Wales but of course the powers of neither. United as a single entity we can we fulfil the promise this amazing county has and achieve the economic success its citizens deserve. It is time for us, the people of these broad acres to act like a good, home cooked Yorkshire pudding and rise proudly and demand that our leaders locally and nationally treat Yorkshire fairly and release those shackles.