Salford Docks and Trafford Park were once described as “the workshop of the world”, but the engineering and manufacturing heritage is now long gone.
The resilience of ordinary Salford people living and working at the heart of the industrial world have inspired many. The songwriter Ewan MacColl wrote the song ‘Dirty Old Town’ about industrial Salford, and Walter Greenwoods novel “Love on the Dole” was inspired by his experiences living in the back to back terraced houses of Hankey Park.
Not only did the conditions of Salford people inspire writers, songwriters and artists, it inspired a generation of people to make the most of what they had, and to strive for better conditions for the city.
The Docks here in Salford were built in the nineteenth century by the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. They were the third largest port in the country and over 5,000 people worked there in its heyday.
Salford and Trafford Park was a global centre of industry. Trafford Park was the world’s first industrial estate –employing 75,000 at its peak in 1945.
Such was its importance, that the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson came to address thousands of workers during their lunch break.
So what happened? Governments since the 80s have obeyed the doctrine that the economy can be sustained by growth in the financial sector in the south-east alone, relying on the welfare state to redistribute to the rest of country. Labour markets were deregulated, trade union rights eroded, mass privatisation occurred and the financial sector was unfettered.
As a result, vast swathes of our country have been neglected and industrial communities put into ‘managed decline.’
In 1982 the Docks finally closed and became an industrial wasteland.
However, Even back then the people of Salford were not about to let our proud heritage and brimming talent in leading world industry be consigned to the history books. Salford City Council envisioned a regeneration of business and industry, and under the last Labour Government the green shoots of regeneration began to appear. The docks were redeveloped, followed by the Lowry, MediaCity, and a vibrant cluster of new and emerging IT and tech companies.
But over the last seven years, starved of the support, infrastructure and investment we need to prosper, progress has stalled.
The sad truth is that we are no more productive now than we were 10 years ago. Largely a result of deliberate underinvestment in skills, infrastructure and research and development, sitting alongside a lacklustre support system for business and a decimated local authority budget.
UK productivity is 13% lower than the G7 average and we are the most regionally imbalanced economy in Europe. We have an economy that is so imbalanced that people in London earn £134 more a week than in parts of the North. Here in Salford, 30 percent of children live in poverty, and unemployment is a full percentage point higher than the national average.
The economy simply isn’t working for most people, with real wages lower than they were a decade ago.
Labour will rebalance our economy to every region and towards industry, give our people the skills they need and create new, high-skill jobs in the industries of the future.
This industrial strategy will be powered by a £250 billion National Transformation Fund, which will give Britain’s creaking infrastructure the upgrade it desperately needs, and we will create a National Investment Bank and network of regional investment banks, which will provide businesses the finance they need to succeed.
With this active support from a Labour government, communities like Salford can reclaim their place as the workshop of the world.
Our plan will give our economy the biggest upgrade Britain has seen in over a generation - and ensure that it works for the many not the few.