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Prime Minister visits north Wales on Levelling Up tour

22 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will visit north Wales today as part of a Levelling Up tour.

The Levelling Up agenda intends to ‘spread opportunity, create jobs and revitalise local communities’ across north Wales.

He will today meet engineers in Ynys Môn to see the work that goes on behind the UK Government’s rollout of faster, more reliable broadband, as well as visit communities and businesses across the two-day tour of the region.

The visit comes following an announcement that more than one million homes, businesses and public buildings ‘can now access the best internet speeds on the market’ as a result of UK Government investment.

According to the UK Government, growth in gigabit coverage in Wales over the past year is among the fastest in the UK. Today nearly 70 per cent of Welsh premises are said to have access to a gigabit capable connection.

“Pride”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Levelling Up is about providing people with better opportunities to work, travel and feel proud of where they live.

“Upgrading one million premises with high-speed gigabit broadband is part of our long-term plan to deliver a brighter future by connecting people, businesses and regions across the entire United Kingdom.

“We’re breathing new life into communities across North Wales through greater connectivity, a brand new freeport, more cash for high streets and a £1 billion investment into North Wales rail.”

As part of the Levelling Up agenda, the Government says it has ‘stepped in to upgrade places which have been left out of the commercial rollout’.

Where previously many people would have struggled to stream TV shows or run small businesses, they say they are “delivering greater connectivity – growing the rural economy, creating jobs and ensuring all communities across the country can reap the rewards of lightning-fast connectivity”.

The intended visit follows the UK Government’s recent delivery of major projects to spread jobs, prosperity and investment across north Wales:

  • The new Anglesey Freeport, visited by the Prime Minister and First Minister last year, is expected to bring forward over a billion in private and public investment and create thousands of new, high-skilled jobs.
  • A major upgrade and electrification of the North Wales Main Line – backed by a £1 billion investment which aims to bring parts of North Wales within an hour of Manchester.
  • A further £20m from the Levelling Up Fund is set to go to projects to develop and boost areas in Denbighshire, which will include regenerating Rhyl town centre, creating more community centres, improving cycle and footpaths, and improving routes between the town and coast.
  • The investment in Denbighshire is one of seven projects across Wales which have been allocated a total of £111 million from round three of the Levelling Up Fund.

“Deeply damaging”

Last month, Nation.Cymru reported that Wales’ economy minister had warned that the UK Government’s “deeply damaging” levelling-up agenda is failing people, businesses and communities,.

Vaughan Gething described replacement EU funding streams as an “incoherent mess, with very little planning, consultation or economic logic”.

Mr Gething accused the UK Government of taking money and powers away from Wales, arguing piecemeal projects will have significantly less economic impact than EU funding.

“Wales has less say over less money,” he said. “That is a deliberate Tory choice – to centralise plainly devolved funds and responsibilities.”

The would-be first minister said the levelling-up fund has been plagued by chaos and delay, with councils pitted against each other and Wales left almost £1.3bn worse off.

He quoted the Institute for Government as saying the fund is an “ineffective competitive funding pot that is neither large enough nor targeted enough to make a dent”.

Mr Gething told the Senedd: “The delivery of the levelling-up agenda is unforgivable and deeply damaging.

“With ineptitude and indifference, the UK Government has wasted the opportunity to deliver meaningful change that Wales and the rest of the UK so desperately needs.”

‘Unjust’

Rhun ap Iorwerth described the levelling-up agenda as an example of an unfair and unjust funding system that Wales finds itself part of.

The Plaid Cymru leader told MSs that the most deprived regions received 83% of total EU funding given to Wales.

“Almost three times as much per person as better off areas of Wales – that’s what levelling up genuinely means,” he said.

“But, under the new UK shared prosperity fund, that figure falls to 73%, and what that tells me is that we’re heading in the wrong direction.”

Mr Iorwerth highlighted The Guardian’s analysis that Conservative marginal seats received one-and-a-half times the amount of funding per person than other constituencies.

“This is democratic corruption by the Conservative Party,” he said.

Alun Davies, a Labour backbencher who represents Blaenau Gwent, argued the levelling up agenda is a public relations exercise rather than a serious economic policy.

“It was only ever about photo opportunities and pork barrel politics,” he said.

Jane Dodds, leader of the Lib Dems in Wales, argued that local democracy is eroded rather than empowered by the bidding system.

‘Hunger Games’

She told the Senedd debate on Tuesday January 16: “This competitive model inevitably picks winners and losers at the discretion of the Conservative Government.

“Well-resourced councils with expert bid writers can submit more polished proposals, while less affluent councils divert scarce resources into, sadly, unsuccessful bids.”

Criticising a “Hunger Games”-style approach, Vikki Howells said the shared prosperity fund has proven to be smaller, less flexible and narrower in scope than EU funding.

The Labour MS for Cynon Valley argued the UK Government has chosen to embed a dangerous and damaging Darwinian model of funding.

She said: “It leads to a postcode lottery where certain opportunities are only available in certain areas and, crucially, a fragmented environment for business support and skills.

“That is just not good enough.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Thanks for the warning…

Barbara H.
Barbara H.
1 month ago

Is it a plane, train or automobile he is using for this week’s campaigning? Maybe a helicopter?
Levelling up? What an overused and misleading term.
People cannot put food on their tables or heat their houses. What use is infrastructure to them? They have no money to go anywhere or do anything.
So many working families are in this position.
The PM thinks he’s helping us peasants. He’s like some feudal tyrant lining his own and his followers’ pockets.
He needs to call a General Election and see how that goes!

Ap Kenneth
1 month ago

North Wales electrification of main line, no work contracted, no planning just vague words. A freeport that encourages tax avoidance and may or maynot replace trade lost because of Brexit. Broadband a decade behind the best countries in the world. Huge celebration of a decade of recession for ordinary people.
Rail Magazine puts electrification hot air into context
https://www.railmagazine.com/news/network/2024/02/14/barriers-hinder-north-wales-main-line-electrification

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Lets see, Ynys Mon majority…..ah, there it is.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Now is all this stuff about improving the lives of the citizens of Cymru or making more efficient the exploitation and extraction of labour and resources from the country? Just look at the railway map of Cymru and compare it with some of the Victorian colonies in Africa. Hugely similar.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Has he blamed Lindsey Hoyle for 14 years of Tory misrule yet ?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Hopefully people aren’t going to fall for this crap anymore, finally realising the Tories are full of it. Leveling up is a joke, deprived areas of Cymru are never going to get out of poverty while we remain in the union.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

The northern Wales pre election visit is to be welcomed if rather late 💕

It is great RS has come to say thanks and good bye to his local troops before their likley departure in the Autumn.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard

Virginia is going to take a serious push from Plaid, she’s one Treaddur Bay limpet…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

He can take his alternative truth elsewhere.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 month ago

The man repeatedly Puts London and South East at forefront of his ‘so called ‘ Policies’. Which currently seem to consist of little else than Rwanda ‘policy’ and ‘let Palestinians be wiped out’ Policy. Never mind the food parcels and kids going hungry He is a waste of air and a charlatan along with the majority of his Cabinet!!

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