Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak both committed themselves to the levelling up agenda when they went head-to-head in a BBC debate on Monday night.

Their pledge comes as The Northern Echo joins 15 top news brands to call on the next Prime Minister to deliver on election promises to Level Up under the slogan "Don't turn your back on the North".

The BBC studio audience in Stoke was made of people who voted Conservative in a so-called “red wall” seat in 2019, and the audience wanted to know what levelling-up meant for them locally, and what these two would do in the next two years.

The Northern Echo:

Truss said people want “urgent action” and to get “spades in the ground”, pushing her “low tax investment zones” and reduce planning restrictions.

She said: “Levelling up is not just a slogan for me, it is about the life I have had.

“I have seen what happened in Paisley and what happened in Leeds when children were let down by a combination of low expectations poor opportunity and poor educational standards.

“Levelling up for me is about changing the treasury investment rules so they are fair across the country. At the moment they favour London.

“It's about making sure that we unleash private sector investment low tax zones. We need to get on with those and we need to make sure that the free ports we deliver are deeper.

She added: “What I want to do is make sure that everybody, regardless of where they live or where they come from, have the same opportunities across our country.”

Asked if he agreed with levelling up, Mr Sunak, who is MP for Richmond, said: “An unequivocal massive yes.

“I grew up in Southampton and now I represent a rural seat in North Yorkshire, where Teesside is my back door and I've seen the amazing changes that I've helped to deliver in a place like that.

“Delivering a freeport that has attracted jobs and investment post-Brexit, to an area with new industries like carbon capture and storage and vaccine manufacturing.

“I think we can bring that same sense of optimism excitement and opportunity across the country. And that is what levelling up should mean.

“It should mean that no matter will you grow up you have fantastic opportunities to fulfil your potential but you also have enormous pride at in the place that you call home.”

He added: “It’s, making sure that the community you grow up in is safe for your kids to walk around in in the evening - making sure that the town centres look exciting and clean.

“That also part of levelling up. We need to get both right - the economic side and the pride side.”

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