We are divided by more than north and south

At the heart of Mike Harding’s letter (23 November) is a call for greater understanding of the needs and desires of diverse communities in our country. I am all for that. What a pity he boiled it down to a north-south divide. I too am a lifelong guardian reader (64 years) and I have a day job as a children’s author. Over the past 20 years I have visited hundreds of schools and communities up and down the country. My list of communities where I saw need and neglect would include Western-super-Mare, Trowbridge, Southampton and many more, all geographically south of Watford. I have also seen the managed decline he refers to in the industrial cities and smaller towns mentioned in his letter. However, in my visits to Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester, I didn’t see neglect in the Morningside, Harrogate, Bearsden or Didsbury areas of these great cities.

I wonder if Mr Harding has been to Haringey, Lambeth or Dagenham. They are all in London. Our diverse country has wonderful regional differences which we should all cherish. To improve things we need to pull together. John Harris’s excellent piece about Lincolnshire elsewhere in the Guardian (For Labour too Brexit means Brexit) demonstrates how difficult this will be. Please can we focus on what needs to be done, not point scoring.
Adrian Townsend
Garsington, Oxfordshire

Aditya Chakrabortty could have stayed on the English side of Offa’s Dyke and got a close up of the same issues he came across in Pontypool (Just about managing? In these towns that’s a dream, 22 November). Pontypool’s problems can be mirrored in many, if not most, small rural towns, positioned outside the more affluent areas of the country. The issues facing such communities have been continuously ignored. In the Forest of Dean our towns have an industrial history to be proud of, but they are now shadows of their former selves. The main issues are always the same: transport, health, law and order and education.

Perhaps developing our existing railway infrastructure or resuscitating some redundant lines, would be far more beneficial and cheaper than HS2? Maybe some decentralisation could benefit the NHS. Rural communities are punished a second time when suffering ill health or injury, with round trips of 60 miles for basic medical care that could be offered by enhanced local cottage hospitals. Rural police resources are so stretched they only appear able to record crime, not solve or prevent it. Education? Despite the efforts of parents, governors and staff alike, too many of our local schools have been in special measures. Political debate is far too city-centric.
Mark Sargent
Aylburton, Gloucestershire

Why should the inhabitants of Pontypool and similar ones right across these blighted isles have to pay tax direct to the Treasury in London? Wouldn’t the tax be better kept at a local level to revitalise the local economy?

This is where a local currency comes in. A local bank could be established to issue electronic Pontypool pounds to be circulated locally, nourishing those parts that the chancellor fails to reach. Employees would elect to receive a proportion of their income in tax-free e-pounds that could only be spent at local businesses and services, thereby continuously benefiting the local community.
Geoff Naylor
Winchester, Hampshire

Having just completed a road trip round Britain with some visiting Australian relatives how I agree with Aditya Chakrabortty. We visited the usual suspects – Oxford, the Cotswolds and Stratford, but also, because we have northern roots, we visited Liverpool, Oldham, Newcastle and Sunderland. My thoughts are exactly as Aditya suggests – that Theresa May should visit these areas. The thing that did stand out was the amazing and resilient people we met along the way, always with a friendly smile, particularly the lady in the National Glass Centre in Sunderland – an amazing place we did not know existed and which we found by accident. The people of these areas deserve better.
Joan Procter
Worthing, West Sussex

Simon Jenkins is right to criticise the government’s infrastructure schemes (To the capital go all the spoils, 24 November), but the problem is not just the north-south divide. The arguments for infrastructure are that these projects are an investment in our future. But the most crucial element of our future lies with our children and money spent on HS2, for example, would be more wisely spent on improving the education we give to the young (and I mean proper education, not Govean).

A future generation equipped both to serve the economy directly, but also well educated in the round, able to assess arguments and organise their thinking on rational grounds, will be essential if we are to have a well-functioning democracy, and would reap far more dividends than trimming an hour off the journey from London to Manchester (or, as Simon Jenkins points out, more likely from Manchester to London). But no mention in the autumn statement of how our hard-pressed schools could be given any help.
Professor Norman Gowar

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters