For over a decade, Britain has been plagued by low rates of economic growth, and with it has followed stagnation in levels of prosperity, productivity and standards of living. Over the course of that same time, investment levels have slipped down to well below the world average and Britain’s manufacturing industry has been decimated.
The economic and social impact of these developments has been widespread and very damaging for many. It has left millions, particularly outside London and the South East, feeling left behind and believing that our economy no longer works for them. They feel they are getting the raw end of a deal from governments of all colours and that they are excluded from benefiting from the proceeds of growth. Strikingly, they don’t feel better off than their parents, nor do they believe that their children will be any more prosperous than they are.
There are towns and regions across the UK that have been hollowed out by deindustrialisation over the last generation. As light and heavy industry slowly and painfully retreated, thousands of well-paid skilled jobs disappeared as did investment and prosperity.
A big factor in the decline of our once booming manufacturing sector is that our economy has for a long time been run mainly to the benefit of services, where we have substantial natural advantages, which has left UK manufacturers, on whom we still depend to pay our way in the world, wholly uncompetitive against the economies of China, South Korea and much of the European Union.
As our service-based economy becomes ever more concentrated on London and the South East, the gap between the North and South continues to widen year-by-year. And as this economic gap widens, so do the social, cultural and political divisions in the country.
Many communities are now looking to policymakers, the private and public sector, and job creators for answers, and I believe those involved in public life have a responsibility to find solutions to these problems.
This must start by putting prosperity and economic growth firmly back at the centre of British political discourse. It is with this objective that I founded The John Mills Institute for Prosperity.
The John Mills Institute for Prosperity initiative focuses on three core issues:
By working with people from all parties, policy stakeholders, business and industry leaders, trade union representatives, economists, commentators, regional leaders, and the public, we are aiming to find a consensus, to provide a platform to bring people with fresh ideas together and to find new solutions to Britain’s economic problems.
We need to increase our competitiveness in those sectors which deliver higher rates of GDP growth – especially technology, mechanisation and power. We must start to transform our economy and make it fit for purpose in the 21st century.
Unless we begin talking about these problems today and get our economy growing much faster than it is at present, we will never be able to cope adequately with future costs already on the horizon, such as climate change, education, the long-term funding of the NHS, and adequate social care and pension provision as our population ages.
By engaging with all these problems, the John Mills Institute for Prosperity initiative hopes to provide a forum for people to share and debate their ideas on how to get our economy to perform better. The old tried-and-test solutions from the Left and Right no longer work. Bringing new ideas and people together is the only way we can achieve real change.
With that in mind, I hope we can count on you for your support and continued engagement with these critical issues.