THE GOVERNMENT has set out how it believes the North East has, and will continue to, benefit from its flagship levelling up agenda in the years to come.

A plan centred around 12 national “missions” was unveiled on Wednesday, covering areas including economy, housing, education, transport and culture with targets for dramatic improvements by 2030.

The plans also involve devolving powers from Whitehall to England’s cities and regions, enabling them to “take back control”.

County Durham has been identified as one of nine areas selected to take forward proposals for devolved powers.

Read more: Devolution deal could give County Durham more powers on local issues

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove told MPs it would “make opportunity more equal and to shift wealth and power decisively towards working people and their families”.

“We need to allow overlooked and undervalued communities to take back control of their destiny,” he said.

“Because we know that, while talent is spread equally across the United Kingdom, opportunity is not.”

The motivational message of “Stay local, go far”, first seen on a poster on Teesside, is now being promoted by the Government around the rest of the country. Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has become a poster boy for the Government, keen to replicate his success in other parts of the country.  

However, the Government faced criticism after it was revealed funding for schemes announced in the plan comes from allocations previously set out in the spending review, rather than new pots of cash.

The government’s levelling up policies in the North East have pumped millions of pounds into communities to create jobs, improve education and revive high streets – but they centre around schemes or funding that has already been announced or allocated.

Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar are among many towns in the region to have benefited from investment thanks to the Levelling Up Fund, Towns Fund, Future High Streets Fund and Community Renewal Fund.

Up to seven authorities in the region have been identified as education “cold spots” and will receive funding to overturn underperforming schools. A new specialist 16-19 maths school will open in Durham.

Read more: Critics claim Government levelling up funding is 'rehashed'

The establishment of the Darlington Economic Campus, which has led to the Treasury opening a base in the town, and the growth of the Teesside Freeport forms a key part of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper.

The Government said local public transport across the country will be “significantly closer” to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.

A total of £310m has already been invested in transport schemes in the Tees Valley, including Middlesbrough and Darlington station upgrades and improving local rail links.

Pay, employment and productivity will have risen in all parts of the UK by 2030, the Government says, while the gap in healthy life expectancy (HLE) between the highest and lowest areas will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years.

There are also plans to improve “well-being” in all parts of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and lowest performing areas closing.

In the North East, females are predicted to live 4.2 years or 6.7 per cent less than the average age in the rest of the country.

And in some areas of Stockton the life expectancy is two decades lower than it is in more affluent areas in the South.

Middlesbrough is ranked as the country’s most deprived area while County Durham has the highest number of ‘left behind neighbourhoods’ in England, with 16.

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