FUNDING for the government’s landmark levelling-up promises has been criticised, with MPs labelling the flagship announcement as a “series of rehashed announcements”.

The promise to ‘level up’ forgotten and deprived communities was a key theme of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 2019 general election campaign which saw the Tories make huge gains in Labour’s previously impregnable “red wall” heartlands.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has launched “12 big missions” the Government wants to achieve by 2030 in order to improve the lives of people in the North.

But his Labour counterpart, Lisa Nandy, criticised the Levelling Up White Paper as being a “series of rehashed announcements, some of which are so old they were actually originally made by Gordon Brown when he was the Labour prime minister in 2008”.

While Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Today’s set of repackaged, rehashed and recycled ‘announcements’ is yet another sign the Conservatives are out of ideas and out of energy."

The Northern Echo: Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (left) and Boris Johnson will unveil the White PaperLevelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (left) and Boris Johnson will unveil the White Paper

Levelling Up LIVE: Government announces plan to improve Northern communities

The White Paper sets out 12 wide-ranging national “missions to be achieved by 2030 to be enshrined in a a flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

But Mr Gove was asked how much of the money committed to the plans is fresh funding.

He told the BBC: “What we’re doing is we’re taking numbers from a Treasury spreadsheet and transforming it into real change in people’s lives.

“The Chancellor, in the Spending Review, outlined significant increases in public spending in a range of areas – in transport, in support for local government, in education, and health and social care.

“That was money put in, if you like, in departmental bank accounts, and now we are spending that money and it’s being allocated to the mayors and other local leaders who are best placed to drive change in their own communities.”

Ms Nandy said: “So that money is money that is earmarked every year, and it’s just been allocated in this White Paper to the same places that would normally get it – this is rehashed, recycled money.”

Mr Gove suggested he has asked the Chancellor for more cash to play with, telling the BBC: “Well, in this life we never get everything we want, but sometimes you get what you need.”

The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonaldMiddlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, is also unconvinced by the funding for the government’s flagship blueprint.

“Levelling up is a blizzard of announcements but with no new money,” he said. “Without it, it’s simply a wish list.”

Read more: North East areas missing out on millions after funding cuts

But he welcomed the news of ambitions to provide more investment for northern communities.

He added: “I do however welcome the commitment to a long term plan and ambitions taking us to 2030 and that’s the right thing to do, but the aspirations around things like transport could be progressed right now.

“For example, in Middlesbrough and across the Tees Valley, we could have the benefit of a London style bus system.

“The powers already exist but are unused by the Tory Mayor Ben Houchen and so passengers continue to pay extortionate bus fares paying £1.30 to travel a few stops that would get you right across London.

“And yes to greater devolution but with it we must have greater transparency and accountability.

What has to stop is central government doling out funding for their favoured places and favoured schemes to the detriment of more impoverished areas and genuinely allow regions to make and implement their own decisions and choices.

“In the final analysis, unless this plan delivers on eradicating poverty, shrinks the grotesque inequalities in this rich country of ours, enables everyone to live dignified and flourishing lives and secures the redistribution of wealth, it will have failed.”

Tory MPs in the North East however are happy with what has been announced.

Reacting to the news Sedgefield’s Tory MP Paul Howell, said: “The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this White Paper is the next crucial step.

The Northern Echo: Stockton South MP Matt VickersStockton South MP Matt Vickers

Stockton South’s MP Matt Vickers said “business on Teesside is booming like never before and we are fast becoming the glowing advertisement of this Government’s Levelling Up agenda”.

He praised the £23.9m Town Deal funding Thornaby received last year, the £16.5m for Stockton High Street and £20m for Yarm and Eaglescliffe.

He added: “Long gone are the days when London-centric government policy ruled the roost. The Levelling Up agenda is the only and best way to enrich every region of the country through higher employment, productivity and pay and a focus on infrastructure and welfare in our most left-behind communities.”

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Combined AuthorityTees Valley Combined Authority

Ben Houchen, whose work as metro mayor of the Tees Valley was praised by the Government in its levelling up announcement, said the region has continually benefited since its secession in 2017.

He said: “Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool is now on the up thanks to the decision taken six-years ago by Whitehall to relinquish power and put it in the hands of local people in my region, and I look forward to other places across the country reaping the benefits of devolution like we have.”

“This White Paper not only cements levelling up across the country, it also delivers more powers for our region so that local people can make more decisions locally rather than politicians or bureaucrats in London.”


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