Liz Truss has backed calls for a "levelling up formula", similar to the Barnett Formula used to distribute cash in Scotland as a means to ensure "areas that have been left behind get the support they deserve".

The Foreign Secretary also said she would roll out low tax "Investment Zones" across the region to attract private investment and outlined a series of tax cuts to ease the cost of living crisis in the short term.

Her commitment came after newspapers across the North, including The Northern Echo, united to warn the former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary not to "turn their back" on the region once in Downing Street.

Read more: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss reveal pitch to the North East

The Northern Echo:

It followed reports that the levelling up agenda, which was a key promise at the 2019 general election, could be shelved after Boris Johnson's departure.

The candidates, along with Labour's shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy, were invited to answer five key questions facing our region by the Northern Agenda this week. 

Read more: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss - Don't turn your back on the North

It comes as Mr Sunak and Ms Truss prepare to debate each other at a regional hustings in Leeds, one of three events in the North to help Tory members decide who they want to back as the next Prime Minister.

All three politicians acknowledged the issues, whether child poverty or low productivity, but there was a varying level of detail when explaining how they would be addressed. 

Here's what Ms Truss had to say in his response to the five questions.

1. What will you do to make sure the commitments made to the North by your predecessors as Prime Minister are kept? 

I will deliver on our 2019 manifesto promises and do even more to deliver new jobs, new industry, and a better opportunity for all to reach their full potential.

We need to ensure that opportunity is equally spread across the entirety of the UK. That means equalising the levelling up formula to make sure that areas that have been left behind get the support they deserve. I strongly believe that levelling up means broadening economic growth from beyond London and the South East and supercharging the North.

2. The average worker in the North is 50% less productive than one in London, what will you do to address this widening gap? 

I want to build an aspiration nation that unleashes opportunity for all, no matter where you live or where you grow up. We need to drive growth and business investment to bring new and better jobs to the North.

We will build the Northern Powerhouse Rail to link up communities and unlock potential across the North. We will take advantage of the opportunities this will bring by introducing new Investment Zones – full-fat freeports – to encourage industry to set up shop in the North. That’s how we will bring better jobs to the North and address productivity.”

3.What will you do to address spiralling rates of child poverty in parts of Northern England? 

We must do what we can now to ease the cost-of-living crisis for families and give children a real opportunity to reach their full potential and break the cycle. That’s what my approach to levelling up is all about.

We’ll ease the squeeze on families now. We will bring down average energy bills by £153 by putting a moratorium on the green energy levy. And we’ll reverse the National Insurance rate rise, saving average workers another £240 every year.

And providing real, long-term opportunities for children means increasing rigour in education – especially in literacy and numeracy – to give children a real chance to reach their full potential. I want to help catch kids up after the pandemic, improve educational outcomes, and help parents with wraparound care. Education and job opportunities are essential to breaking child poverty rates in the long term.”

4. How far will you go to give Northern leaders control over education and skills, transport and health budgets currently held by Westminster, and will you give them more powers to raise or lower taxes to boost local economies? 

We need to expand on the goals of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Towns Fund to put vital resources directly towards the priorities of local communities. We need to empower local leaders and businesses to take the decisions that affect local people as much as possible.

And we need to make sure we listen to local leaders when we build infrastructure to grow Northern communities. That’s why I'll reform the planning system to place power back in the hands of local people and Councillors who know their community best. We will implement a ‘bottom-up’ approach to planning, which includes scrapping Whitehall-imposed top-down housing targets that too often overlook the schools, hospitals, and transport hubs needed to support communities.”

5. Will you retain a government department responsible for tackling regional inequalities with a Cabinet-level Minister for whom this is their main job?


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