Government urged to support people ‘locked out of opportunity’ after Brexit

Pride must be restored to overlooked towns, and investment targeted at people locked out of opportunity in order to heal a post-Brexit Britain, a charity has urged.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said minimum wage hikes and increases to high-quality apprenticeships are necessary for politicians to win back public support in a divided era.

A “far more ambitious” response is required to attract businesses, improve transport and invest in skills in areas where people have been “locked out of opportunity”, the charity said on Wednesday.

The recommendations are based on research suggesting that voters’ priorities are long-standing domestic problems despite Brexit having “monopolised” political debate.

Ambitious policies to bridge the divide between Remain and Leave voters could deliver an electoral boost, according to the research.

JRF executive director Claire Ainsley (pictured) said: “People on low incomes across Britain are frustrated with politicians who fail to act on their concerns. Voters across Britain have told us that ‘politics as usual’ will simply not cut it any more.

“Low-income voters are turning out to vote in greater numbers and are the most likely group to switch their vote. Any party wishing to govern should take their concerns seriously.”

The JRF recommends the first step is for the Government to deliver the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund and ensure it at least matches the 2.4 billion euros (£2.2 billion) in spending that will be lost from the EU’s structural funds.

Good jobs that provide security are a priority for voters, while employers should beat politicians’ pace by paying real living wages before legislation is enacted, the charity said.

Basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills for all adults are needed as a priority, as is spreading opportunity outside of London with significant investment, it added.

The recommendations were based on research commissioned alongside the UK in a Changing Europe research team based at King’s College London.

“At a time when the country is so profoundly divided over Brexit, this is the perfect moment to find common ground and push forward an agenda that can unite the country,” the research concludes.

“People on low incomes told us what this looks like: improving living standards and restoring pride to towns and cities which have been overlooked for too long.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government is committed to levelling up our regions so people can benefit from our shared prosperity across the country.

“We’re creating a £3.6 billion Towns Fund to support an initial 100 towns and will also be bringing forward plans on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.”

Working with ComRes, the study was based on in-depth conversations with 190 people on low incomes across nine towns and cities including Glasgow, Leeds, Newport, Southampton, Bolton and Dudley.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joseph Rowntree Foundation.