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Conservative commitment to ‘levelling up’ economy outside of SE England set to be ‘junked’ by next Prime Minister

17 Jul 2022 3 minute read
Rishi Sunak (left) speaks with Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen. Picture by Owen Humphreys / PA Wire

The Conservatives’ commitment to ‘levelling up’ the economy outside the South East of England is set to be “junked” by the next Prime Minister, sources have told the Times newspaper.

Boris Johnson launched the policy in July 2021 by saying that the UK had an economy that was “more unbalanced than pretty much every major developed country”.

In a speech, he said that it was shocking that the GDP per capita of Wales was now lower than East Germany, only 31 years after German unification, which he identified as the result of too much UK Government investment in London and the South East of England.

But the leading candidates for Prime Minister in the Conservative leadership race are all now distancing themselves from the commitment to levelling up economically stagnant parts of the country.

There were concerns that “it did not mean anything” and “was toxic to voters in the south” of England, the Times was told.

A source close to Rishi Sunak told the newspaper that the policy was “confused” and that he wanted to slim down the state rather than spending more money.

Liz Truss’ campaign meanwhile said there needed to be less focus on money going in and more on money being generated within local areas.

Tom Tugendhat, who is expected to be the next to leave the contest tomorrow, was the only one that would give a commitment to continuing the levelling up policy. However, he said that he would rebrand it as a “new deal for Britain”.

‘Further behind’

In May analysis by Bloomberg showed that Wales was falling further behind London rather than ‘levelling up’.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to reduce regional inequality, the gap between London and the rest of the UK has widened, the statistics showed.

Only three Welsh constituencies had seen any kind of ‘levelling up’ – Monmouth, Caerphilly and Islwyn. Cardiff Central and Cardiff North were ahead in 2019 but were now falling behind. The rest of Wales was behind and falling behind further still.

On total government spending, Wales had shrunk 8% since 2019 while London had grown by 1.8%. On government spending on transportation, Wales had shrunk 12.9% while London had grown 7%.

Home affordability is getting worse nearly everywhere. Ceredigion had seen the biggest drop at 16.7%.

“More than two years on, in a period dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, most of the places that lagged behind London and the South East of England when Johnson came to power have seen little sign of better times,” Bloomberg News, which conducted the analysis, said.

“In fact, they’re more likely to be falling further behind.”

Labour has criticised the figures, saying that they show that the ‘levelling up’ promise has amounted to “three years of broken promises and empty slogans”.

The UK Government responded: “These findings highlight the vital importance and urgency of levelling up across the country as we recover from the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our Levelling Up white paper sets out a long-term plan for spreading opportunity and reversing inequality by working across central and local government and the public and private sector.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
4 months ago

No matter who wins, we lose….

Gareth
Gareth
4 months ago

The gap has widened with the ” levelling up” money, what will it look like when the next person in charge is even more to the right than Johnson, with the neoliberal policies. We are in for a worse time than we had with Thatcher.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
4 months ago

YAY!! I hope everybody in Wales votes for the Conservatives, they really do care about us ya know,

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
4 months ago

As a free market supporter, I want us in Cymru to be wealthy, of course. But, of greater importance, is a feeling of community, with a secure culture and the freedom to walk though our land unhindered. Being relatively poor would not be so bad if we are in it together. Just thinking how morally degraded the UK has become is reason enough to want independence..

Last edited 4 months ago by I.Humphrys
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

Free market is one thing , but we watched on helpless as our stall was set up by Whitehall as an ‘all you can eat Wales buffet’ leaving us nothing but bleached bones and the responsibility of clearing up the social mess made.

#YesCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 #Ymlaen 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Last edited 4 months ago by Y Cymro
Ceramike
Ceramike
4 months ago

It’s now time for a major rethink of how the relationship with the UK (England) continues as Wales becomes increasingly marginalised in any of the candidates for PM consideration. Wales has become one of the poorest nations in Europe. With a lack of investment to provide the infrastructure necessary for economic growth. The natural resources of Wales have been subsumed to the benefit of the UK with no return to the country of derivation. For many in England, Wales provides a playground for them, the freedom to get away into a beautiful environment with the the ever growing demands of… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago
Reply to  Ceramike

It is not just the outdoor pursuits, unless you mean the pavement outside the bar where in the early hours of this morning the cops had to come to tell them to pack it in and get back to their holiday homes…the Landlord totally at fault…no respect for anyone except his till…

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
4 months ago
Reply to  Ceramike

Whilst it comes as no surprise to hear that the Ayn Rand Disciples, comprising the candidates for the next leader of the Tory Party, wish to abandon Levelling Up, I think we should be careful to avoid using their language in our discussions. If we use our opponents language then we have lost the argument. Thus we need to remember that the UK Government does not and never has needed to raise taxes to pay for spending. Governments and banks have the ability to make all the money that they need. However, Governments need to manage that process with taxation… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

Sunak’s idea of levelling up outside the south-east is to use a steamroller..

Last edited 4 months ago by Mab Meirion
Evans
Evans
4 months ago

It was Tory Propaganda LIES LIES and more lies they do not look after their own that is England all parts just the South east and London so what chance have Wales got

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

You are not seriously telling me all their manifesto promises & pledges to Wales we merely the equiverlent of transient bubbles in a Tory flute of taxpayer funded Moet. There one moment gone the next.

Surely not? The Tories are an honest virtuous party full of decent upstanding democrats who went into politics to serve the public not themselves. And if you believe that Conservative crap you voted for Brexit!

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
4 months ago

‘Levelling Up’ was never seriously intemded to narrow the gap in wealth between Cymru and the affluent parts of England. Its been a largely cosmetic exercise in random parts of Wales whose main purpose was to make the Welsh Government and Senedd look superfluous, unnecessary, and powerless. Brought to you by Johnson’s ‘Union Unit’. Time it was bombarded with FOI requests.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
4 months ago

What I wanted to know was if there is to be a levelling up who is it that gets levelled down? Without knowing who would lose so us poor folks can gain it was always just cakeism.

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