How do we narrow the divides – rich and poor, North and South?

By | October 18, 2012

Rich and Poor DivideThe great divide – between the rich and the poor, and the North and the South of England – continues to exercise the minds of politicians and economists in the UK.

Ed Miliband in his speech at the Labour Party Conference used the phrase ‘one nation’ 57 times with reference to his concern to reduce the divide between the rich and the poor, and particularly between the bankers and the rest of us.

His 65-minute speech was made just yards from the site of Disraeli’s famous One Nation speech in Manchester and he told his party conference that Britain is being governed with one rule for those at the top and another rule for everyone else.

Recent  statistics show that indeed the gap between the rich and the poor is growing in the UK with wages at the bottom end falling in real terms whilst top executive pay continues to rise.

Channel 4 covered the report by the High Pay Commission, which said that average wages have risen by around 300 per cent since 1980, while the highest paid company executives’ pay increases have soared by more than 4,000 per cent over the same period.

The report recommends, among other proposals, that companies publish a ratio reflecting the difference between the top and the median wage. It also calls for executive pay to be simplified, and for the establishment of a new body to monitor high pay.

(If you can’t see this video click here)

Similarly, statistics comparing economic growth and unemployment indicate that the North fares much worse than the South of England.

Against these depressing statistics, for those of us living in Yorkshire if we think positively we can list several very important advantages of living in this region.

All our big cities and towns have:

  • Easy access to beautiful countryside and historic sites – wonderful for tourism and people interested in outdoor pursuits

YorkshireDales_

  • A number of excellent higher and further education institutions on the doorstep  offering excellent access to a skilled and educated workforce –  Bradford University and Bradford College right here in Bradford, as well as Leeds, York, Sheffield, Huddersfield and others too many to mention
  • Dedicated and passionate people, proud of their great heritage and keen to support the economic and social regeneration of their cities
  • And, as a consequence of the North South divide, we also have very low house prices!

Bradford has all these advantages, and more. However on the other hand one of the key disadvantages hampering the attraction of businesses to Bradford is the poor transport infrastructure, specifically the lack of good rail connections, including the absence of a good rail link to Leeds-Bradford airport.

leeds-bradfordBusiness lobbying groups in Bradford, such as Bradford Breakthrough, which represents Bradford’s leading private and public sector businesses, are pushing hard for the allocation of funding to support such a link from the £1bn transport infrastructure fund for West Yorkshire that has recently been established.  Let us hope they are successful.

Every country in the world battles with these problems of divide, whether it’s which side of the railtracks are more prosperous or the growing gaps between rich and poor.

How is your country tackling these – and what do you think is most likely to be successful for your country – and the UK?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below

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About Dr Sarah Dixon

Dr Sarah Dixon, Dean of Bradford University School of Management, completed her MBA at Kingston University, subsequently joining them where she held a variety of roles, culminating in director of postgraduate programmes for the Faculty of Business and Law. Gaining a DBA from Henley Business School in the interim, she went on to research activity at the University of Bath taking on the role of head of MSc programmes.

Her business career at Royal Dutch Shell Group included petrochemicals business management in Vienna and Moscow and later positions in strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions in London. She moved into business consulting as director of the strategy consultancy, Albany Dixon Ltd before joining the School in September 2010.

Specialties: Strategy, Organizational change, Dynamic capabilities, Organisational learning

2 thoughts on “How do we narrow the divides – rich and poor, North and South?

  1. Michael Whittaker

    Apologies for only just having got round to putting some top of the head thoughts on paper!!

    In reply to Sarah Dixon,

    Those divides certainly do exist; of that there is no doubt, and I find both offensive!
    However, I am not sure that they are the same or that they even relate directly one to another.
    You seem to imply a common denominator in there somewhere and that eludes my simple mind.

    With regard to the rich and the poor I am minded of that bit in the bible: For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

    It varies a bit across translations and often relates just to knowledge, but I think the message is roughly the same.

    To my simple thinking this is an almost inevitable consequence of a free market in the capitalist system. I say ‘almost’ as no market is completely free and some capitalists have a social conscience. In general however the stronger partner in a trade or deal will come out better because he is stronger and the weaker will get what they can and that will generally be less.

    The operation of a morally sound and uncorrupt centrally planned (or socialist?) economy has the opportunity to distribute wealth to all according to their needs – but I am not sure that there have been any good examples of this working to the good of all over a sustained period. (perhaps Cuba nearest?)

    A compromise was recognised in theory by Tony Blair and Co in promoting the ‘third way’ but I am now left with the feeling that perhaps this was more of a vote catcher than a promise of better things to come. It had the potential but…

    Don’t wish to be alarmist but I see little change ahead unless there is some serious discontinuity in the ‘system’ such as a war (heaven forbid) or a revolution (not here folks!). Maybe bubble burst in the economy which makes the current double or is it triple dip seem like a hiccup!! And so it will continue as it has…

    So with more wealth in the south than in the north there are the statistics which you refer to, but is that the real south north divide? Similar stats could break up the country to show lots of divides such as that affecting the far south west. Or the split in Ireland and lots of other divided areas. They are cultural, religious, ideological, political etc or even tribal divides. And while I find it difficult to discount the rich v poor effect I have to say it is something far deeper than that which divides our country in north v south.

    If only I were wrong and a solution was around the corner for all divides…

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