Northern Tory MPs have called on the Prime Minister not to dismiss the levelling up agenda set out by her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Conservative MPs in the influential Northern Research Group are among those calling for Liz Truss to “double down on levelling up” and not forget the promises the party made to voters in the 2019 general election.

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The Northern Echo:

The calls to continue the agenda aimed at spreading opportunity more equally across the UK come on the eve of the Conservative party conference, which starts in Birmingham this weekend.

John Stevenson, the Tory MP for Carlisle and chairman of the Northern Research Group, said: “We need to double down on levelling up.

“That requires both short-term action in the form of tax cuts and investment in public services and in the long term finding ways to boost the productivity of towns and cities that have struggled for decades to retain talent and attract private investment.”

He was joined in his calls to continue the levelling up agenda by Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, who chairs the Property Research Group.

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“The economic crisis we are facing risks further increasing the North-South divide,” he said.

Mr Hollinrake added: “Urgent action is needed to help encourage private sector investment into our northern towns and cities. Reforming business rates is one such lever which the Government could pull to breathe new life into our local communities.”

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “The levelling up agenda has never been more important. 

"At a time where many people are really feeling the cost of living this Government must recognise its duty to the people of the north. 

"Levelling up cannot be just a slogan. It has to continue to deliver real change for the people of this country that were forgotten for too long. 

"We have seen some really positive steps in Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool over the past few years which have created many good quality local jobs. But that was a start, that’s all, and it can’t end here. 

"I will never stop fighting for the people of Teesside and will always put people before ideology. With this, I urge the Government to remember the promise they made to constituents like mine back in 2019."

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: "I am a proud member of the NRG, and our PM signed up to the NRG commitments in the leadership election.

"The energy support for business and energy support for millions of British families together with the basic rate tax cut for all are vitally important to the people of Darlington at this time.

"People of Darlington can rest assured I will continue to press the government to double down on its promises to level up here which has brought 1700 civil service job opportunities, improvements to our town centre, our learning offering, our transport infrastructure but we do need to do more to reverse the years where our region was ignored by party’s of all colours."

Calls from the northern MPs come as new research highlights the electoral significance to voters of regenerating their areas of the UK.

The research by WPI Strategy for the Retail Jobs Alliance, a group of retail businesses and unions, found that of the 50 constituencies with the highest rates of empty shops, 90% are among those identified as being in most need of levelling up.

The report argues in favour of freezing business rates and reforming them, in order to breathe new life into high streets and improve their prospects of being levelled up.

Will Tanner, director of the centre-right Onward think tank, warned: “If the Conservatives abandon levelling up, they will not only be letting down millions of voters who believed that promise, they will be forfeiting their chances of a majority.”

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