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Hull's fight for a Fair Deal continues

Below is the full version of the article Diana Johnson MP had published in the Yorkshire Post on 24 February 2016.
 
In the House of Commons recently, the Prime Minister backed my call for national arts and culture organisations to contribute fully to the UK City of Culture. 
 
This, after all, was one major objective of having a national City of Culture.
 
Hopefully, these national organisations, largely London-based, will listen and join the RSC, the BBC and others in backing City of Culture.
 
However, their participation isn’t the whole story.
 
Hull’s experience shows the plight of often overlooked parts of the North currently having to fight even harder to be heard. Hull has encountered this problem, including over arts and culture investment - and Hull is the UK City of Culture in 2017!
 
Another objective of UK City of Culture is leaving a legacy of improved facilities in the city where it takes place - as opposed to a cheap ‘pop-up’ festival that leaves little behind.
 
In November’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne announced £150m for London museums, £141m for arts and cultural developments at East London’s Olympic Park and £100m for a new Royal College of Arts campus in Battersea. 
 
In the same speech, the Chancellor allocated ‘a share’ in £1m for Hull’s year as City of Culture! 
 
This brought Government support for Hull 2017 up to £11m.
 
While £3.5m was found for a helter skelter at the Olympic Park, Hull was recently turned down for £5m towards refurbishing Hull New Theatre.
 
Hull’s bid to bring Amy Johnson’s plane Jason to her city of birth, marking 75 years since her death, was rejected by London’s Science Museum. 
 
Based in South Kensington and receiving £45m a year in public grants, the Science Museum have developed their Flight Gallery to make it difficult to move the Gypsy Moth plane without, they claim, dismantling part of the roof. 
 
This is unfortunate. Displaying Jason in Hull would give many local people an easier opportunity to see part of our local history for the first time.
 
Meanwhile, Bradford are losing their Royal Photography Society collection to London’s V&A.
 
Recent headlines in the Yorkshire Post shows an underlying unfairness at work – and it applies more widely than arts and culture issues. 
 
Hull City Council faces the latest Government funding cuts without a penny of the £300m in transitional relief - £24m for Surrey alone – that ministers are giving to many wealthier areas. As one of the UK’s most deprived cities, who have already faced the deepest cuts since 2010, Hull also doesn’t have the range of options for protecting services available to councils in richer areas. 
 
Hull has the lowest frontline policing numbers since the 1970s after losing 24% - the joint highest figure among English and Welsh police forces - since 2010. Despite increasing levels of violent and sexual crime locally, Humberside’s policing faces a further real terms cut of £2.7m. 
 
The £880,000 that the Police and Crime Commissioner’s 1.99% precept increase hopes to raise would only partly mitigate this.
 
When the playing fields of Eton were flooded in 2014 money was ‘no object’, but it was an object when crucial flood defence schemes were cut or delayed in the North from 2010.
 
Hull’s much-delayed rail electrification scheme shortly marks two years seemingly stuck in the same stage of the Department of Transport’s glacial decision-making process, even though the scheme is privately financed. Meanwhile, a walk round Canary Wharf’s gleaming new £500m Crossrail Station shows where investment remains focussed.
 
While Hull awaits our £75m A63 road scheme, the Government wants to spend £2bn on a Stonehenge road tunnel. It was no surprise to see in the most recent figures that transport investment in London is £5,426 per head, but only £581 per head in Yorkshire and the Humber.
 
As a result of not getting rail or road improvements done in time for 2017, apart from the £11.5m footbridge over the A63 that is due to open during 2017, we’re now debating lowering parking charges and Humber Bridge tolls - ideas that can be implemented quickly for 2017.
 
The days when the Humber Bridge was built for £98m have now been replaced by the era of the £175m Thames Garden Bridge.
 
Despite all the talk of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and ‘rebalancing the economy’, and how it would benefit overall growth in the UK economy, much of the largesse flows from the poorest parts of the North to the wealthiest parts of the South. 
 
This isn’t just about funding and investment. On Whitehall jobs, devolution is in reverse mode. 
 
The most recent example was the Department of Business closing its Sheffield office, moving 247 jobs to London.
 
To be fair, this isn’t just about the North versus South divide. Parts of the North in a position to jump through the necessary hoops for Whitehall’s ‘one size fits all’ model of ‘devolution’ - making indefinite changes in local governance in return for shorter term funding boosts - are more favoured. 
 
Through no fault of our own, Hull hasn’t been in a position to be so favoured. So while East Yorkshire’s BBC Look North recently reported enthusiastically on the building of a £750,000 open air theatre in Hull, Manchester gets £78m for a new theatre and exhibition centre.
 
In attracting Siemens and winning City of Culture - and before that building the KC Stadium - Hull fights to make our own luck on regeneration. 
 
However, the days of Hull getting half of the £52m cost of building The Deep from the Millennium Commission are a distant memory.
 
That’s why the campaign for a fair deal for Hull continues.
 
Diana Johnson
Labour MP for Hull North
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