Angela Rayner was in Bishop Auckland today (March 16) to help launch Kim McGuinness’ campaign for North East Mayor.

The Labour Shadow Deputy Prime Minister spoke with the Echo before the event on the failures of the Government’s Levelling Up scheme, encouraged collaboration between the region’s authorities, and endorsed Mrs McGuinness’ candidacy.

She said Levelling Up was a “scam and a sham,” and the money invested in the North East was not proportional to that taken out of the area.

Mrs McGuinness said her team will measure their success on the number of North East children they lift out of poverty – with the region holding a child poverty rate of 35 per cent.

The Northern Echo: Shadow Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner launches Kim McGuinness' North East Mayor campaign in

This figure is four per cent higher than the average for England, and six per cent higher than the UK average.

Mrs Rayner said: “The amount of money that the North East has had taken from it since the Conservatives came to power is in no way matched by the money that they’ve given.

“Kim McGuinness and others have been pushing to get that investment and making sure Bishop Auckland and the rest of the North East get the investment they deserve.

“Quite frankly, it doesn’t make up for over a decade of austerity we’ve seen across the North East.”

This comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came to Newton Aycliffe and argued that Levelling Up can be considered a success.

He pointed to investment earmarked for Bishop Auckland, £20m being given to Spennymoor as part of the Long Term Plan for Towns, and the Ferryhill Station being re-opened as examples.

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee found just over 10% of overall funding available has been spent.

Today, the deputy shadow leader praised Mrs McGuinness’ work to help young people get a better start and put more police on the street.

The Northern Echo: Kim McGuinness speaking at the event Credit: SARAH CALDECOTT

At the event, the Labour mayoral candidate for the North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) spoke of how her time as Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner has shown her the reality of life for the region’s working-class families.

Mrs McGuinness, recalling her working-class background, said Labour had given her family hope – and added she plans to dispel the ”dark Tory days” and give this type of hope to North East communities.

“By the time of the next General Election, we would have seen 14 years of Tory chaos culminating in a cost-of-living crisis and a region which endures the highest levels of child poverty anywhere in the country.

“We don’t take a single vote for granted, particularly not here. We have to earn it.

“People of our region have never needed Labour more. The North East has its challenges, we all know that.

“But, we are also a deeply proud region, and that pride is part of our identity, because where you live matters. We stay here, we choose to live here because we love it and we want to shape our own future.

The Northern Echo: Sir Brendan Foster talking at the Kim McGuinness North East Mayor campaign in Bishop Auckland

Speaking to the Echo, Mrs McGuinness said the biggest difference between Labour and Conservative devolution is that her party’s plan will make a “real difference” to those living in the region.

She said: “After 14 years of Tory government, we have got the highest levels of child poverty in the country. This is an incredible place, but our job is to make it better.

“I want to put our region at the centre of the green energy revolution that’s to come, making sure that we’re taking the lead on Great British energy.

“We want to make sure that everyone has a great job, where they live, locally.

“That means support for people in shops, factories, care workers, childcare workers, all of the people who enable our economy. We need to grab the opportunities that arts and culture offer us, not just to give kids the best possible opportunities in life, but also because it means economic success for us.”

The Northern Echo: Sam Rushworth Bishop Auckland Labour candidate Credit: SARAH CALDECOTT

Labour’s deputy leader praised the work of her party’s Mayors in the North East for their efforts to bring investment into the area.

She also said local government need to work together to tackle the region’s issues, and said it begins with not having a “Dragon’s Den competition” between authorities.

“The North East and the different local authorities here should not compete,” she added.

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“Instead of the competition about little pots of money, it’s a long-term funding settlement that brings stability that people can build upon, and businesses can invest in the North East.

“Since me and Kier took over as leader and deputy leader, you can see that the Labour Party has changed.

“We’re listening to voters, and hopefully you can see from Kim McGuinness’ campaign that our priorities are their priorities. We’re going to the hard yards to build the foundations so that the kids across the whole of the North East have the opportunity.”