ARE Tory politicians promises of levelling up for poorer communities credible? All the evidence from 11 years of Tory government shows it has presided over a significant levelling down for the North-East public.

It has increased wealth and health inequalities between the rich and poor and the north and south; millions more live in poverty, record numbers rely on food banks, baby banks and school meals.

The Government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic has not only cost more than 150,000 lives, with many more living with disabling long Covid, but has devastated our economy, with the poorest and ethnic minorities affected most.

Tory manifesto promises of £2bn for social care seem to have been forgotten and without proper social care funding, the poor and vulnerable will suffer more and inequalities will widen.

Sir Michael Marmot’s review of health equity, published in February 2020, highlighted that over the past 10 years, people can expect to spend more of their lives in poverty, improvements to life ex-pectancy have stalled and declined for the poorest 10 per cent of women, the health gap has grown between wealthy and deprived areas, and place matters – living in a deprived area of the North-East is worse for your health than a similarly deprived area in London, to the extent that life expec-tancy is nearly five years less.

The opposition parties tabled a bid to debate this in Parliament but all Tory MPs voted against the debate. And of course, all of the Tory party also voted against feeding poor children in school during the pandemic.

It is great that the Treasury staff are to ‘move’ from London to Darlington, but I doubt very much that local people will get more than a handful of jobs, and now many economists fear that compa-nies based in the eight English freeports, including Teesport, will miss out on access to key markets because of recent post-Brexit trade agreements.

Is this levelling up? I don’t think so.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised he would spend £4.8bn “redrawing the economic map” through a “levelling up fund”, but evidence from Cambridge University and the Financial Times suggests that much of the money is instead redrawing the political map. Forty prosperous areas with Tory MPs are being prioritised over five struggling areas with opposition party MPs. Richmond, an affluent area with Mr Sunak as MP, is inexplicably one of those receiving huge amounts of funding.

Diane Coyle, Professor of Public Policy at Cambridge University .described the bias in favour of wealthy Tory seats, including Richmond, as “pretty blatant really”.

In the last 11 years, councils under opposition party control, largely in more deprived areas, have seen their budgets slashed while much of that local government money has been moved to often far more prosperous Tory controlled councils.

Only this week, the education recovery tsar resigned over a “lack of promised funding to support children and a half-hearted approach”.

Sadly this is yet more evidence that Tory promises to poorer communities are just hollow propa-ganda, and this policy of “levelling up” is really called “levelling down”.

Professor Ahmet Fuat has been a GP in Darlington for 35 years and is passionate about tackling health inequalities and cardiovascular disease. The Views are his own and do not represent any or-ganisation he works with