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