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Northern cities 'beyond revival'


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Cities in northern England such as Liverpool, Sunderland and Bradford are "beyond revival" and residents should move south, a think tank has argued.


Policy Exchange said current regeneration policies were "failing" the people they were supposed to help.


A mass migration to London, Cambridge and Oxford would stop them becoming "trapped" in poorer areas, it said.


One of the report authors acknowledged it may be seen as "barmy". A Liverpool MP called it "utter nonsense".


Policy Exchange is one of the most influential right-of-centre think tanks and it has been credited with much of the fresh thinking behind the revival of the Conservative Party under David Cameron.


Its report comes as Mr Cameron embarks on a two-day tour of marginal constituencies in the north of England, including areas around Liverpool.


However, the Tories stressed that they wholeheartedly supported the regeneration of northern cities and the report did "not reflect" party policy.


Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle described the Policy Exchange report as "utter nonsense".


"It doesn't ring true economically, socially or politically," said the Liverpool Walton MP.


"The south-east cannot take any more people and people in the north-west do not want to go.


"People are more than happy with the regeneration work that is happening".


The Policy Exchange report said the three million affordable new homes planned by the government should be built in London, Oxford and Cambridge to enable people to migrate south.


People should be told the "reality" to avoid them becoming "trapped" in less prosperous parts of the country.


Money currently being pumped into renewal projects and back-to-work schemes should instead be given directly to councils, according to local wage levels, to spend on regeneration measures, it added.


The authors concluded that coastal cities like Liverpool and Sunderland had "lost much of their raison d'etre" with the decline of shipping and had "little prospect of offering their residents the standard of living to which they aspire".


It was time to be "realistic about the ability of cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle to regenerate struggling nearby towns such as Liverpool, Bradford and Sunderland.


"No-one is suggesting that residents should be forced to move, but we do argue that they should be told the reality of the position: regeneration, in the sense of convergence, will not happen, because it is not possible," it concluded.


Restrictions on house-building in the south-east should be lifted to lower house prices and stop people on low incomes being "trapped" in less prosperous parts of the country, the authors said.


Land earmarked for industrial use should be released for housing. The resulting price increase for industrial land would force some firms to relocate to cheaper areas, meaning more jobs for people in struggling towns and cities.


'Economic power-houses'


The university cities of Oxford and Cambridge were well placed to become the economic power-houses of the 21st Century, it argued, like the industrial north more than a century ago.


"We should consider expanding both dramatically, just as Liverpool and Manchester expanded in the 19th Century. Dynamic economies require dynamic economic geography."


The authors included Tim Leunig, a lecturer in economic history at the London School of Economics, who said: "No doubt some people will claim that these proposals are unworkable, unreasonable and perhaps plain barmy.


"But the issue is clear: current regeneration policies are failing the very people they are supposed to be helping and there is no evidence that the trend will be reversed without radical changes."


He said internal migration had always been an important part of a dynamic economy.


"If we are to ensure that people in this country have similar opportunities, regardless of where they are born, we need to allow people to move from places with few prospects to places that offer more opportunities," he said.



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