North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

Gove and Kemp at one over local pride

Michael Gove must be pleased. The new leader of Newcastle City Council agrees with him over the importance of pride in place.

Councillor Nick Kemp told the Local Democracy Service, reported in ChronicleLive that civic pride was one of Newcastle’s big assets and he wanted to recapture a sense of Geordie pride.

True to his profession as managing director of a public affairs consultancy, Councillor Kemp wants to ‘re-define the brand’ of the city, giving it something of Manchester’s worker bee emblem.

This ambition seems to fit perfectly with Michael Gove’s ambition to restore local pride, which is one of four key objectives of his Levelling Up White Paper’.

Restoring local pride looks like a fairly cheap way of levelling up compared with other objectives in the White Paper like boosting pay and productivity and improving public services. The second of these would require reversal of a decade of cuts to the budgets of local authorities, which provide many of the services concerned.

The resources needed for restoring pride, on the other hand, may be relatively modest and involve at least in some cases re-directing existing funds such as brownfield funds to new locations in the north and midlands and cultural spending to support activities outside London.

In other cases, policies like the provision of affordable social housing and protection for tenants in the private rented sector have been re-branded from housing policy to levelling up and pride in place.

Councillor Kemp’s plan to re-brand Newcastle has met with a mixed response. One comment from a fellow public relations professional was: ‘Agree that it’s a good time to press pause and review what the vision is for Newcastle. Cllr Nick Kemp is right to start by defining what the brand and vision should be. The city has been punching beneath its weight for too long. But let’s not be guilty of navel gazing for too long!’

Another was less favourable: ‘Trying to brand a city has never sat well with me. And I wonder how much traction the worker bee has beyond Manchester (and how much it had before the atrocity). I sense an expensive white elephant coming on.’