With the national press full of news on how the government wants to “level up Britain” the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the right wing think tank, has launched a competition worth £50,000 to the winner to find the best pro-market, pro-enterprise policy to supercharge growth, employment and living standards in “left behind Britain”.
In launching the competition, called the Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize, the IEA said: “In economic terms, the UK is two countries. On the one hand we have a prosperous enclave in London and the South East, with a high performing economy that compares favourably on measures such as GVA per person with the richest parts of Northern Europe.
“But many towns and communities have witnessed decades of decline – made worse by the Coronavirus pandemic. They suffer from deep-seated problems, such as failing businesses, boarded up high streets, unemployment, and poor housing.
“What can be done to re-energise these areas? What would it take to make them thrive?”
The Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize 2020/21 is looking for answers.
While Liverpool City Region and the Tees Valley are among the most deprived in England, the Black Country comes in at third in the list. And while it could be easy to assume that the South West, West Midlands and the Thames Valley have no deprivation, government statistics show that there are pockets of deprivation across the whole of England. For instance at county level, while Gloucestershire remains in the least deprived 20 per cent of regions nationally, it has 12 neighbourhoods which do fall into the deprived segment, nine of these neighbourhoods are in Gloucester, two in Cheltenham and one in the Forest of Dean. The Gorse Hill, Warndon and Cathedral wards of Worcester are also among the top 20 per cent of the most deprived areas of the country, while 10 of Oxford’s 83 neighbourhood areas fall into that category. The Leys, Rose Hill, Littlemore, Barton and areas of the city, experience multiple levels of deprivation – low skills, low incomes and relatively high levels of crime.
The policy put forward by entrants must be both politically possible and compatible with a free market society.
Along with the £50,000 first price, there are additional prizes for highly commended entrants and students. And the winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony in central London, which will take place – pandemic permitting – next summer.
Richard Koch, Businessman, Author and Sponsor of the Prize, said: “Some policymakers are resigned to a North-South divide. They view it as inevitable – particularly in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. I disagree.
“We can reverse the fortunes of our broken cities and regions. We can find ways to transform them into prosperous hubs replete with high wage, high productivity jobs.
“My Breakthrough Prize, now in its fourth year, could provide an important starting point for popular ideas to supercharge growth, employment and living standards in those ‘left behind’ areas.
“I’m looking for new, exciting, and radical free-market ways to tackle this burning issue – and I am optimistic that, as with previous years, we will find them.”
Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs said:
“Successive governments over the last few decades have failed to come up with effective solutions. This has manifested itself in repeated attempts to subsidise low-productivity industries – from car plants to the nuclear industry, Concorde, steel or shipbuilding.
“The Breakthrough Prize is a timely and important contribution to healing the growing economic divergence between different parts of the country, and to resolving an issue that is vital for our prosperity and society.”