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Labour And Tory MPs Will Unite To Discuss The Government's Promises For The North, Amid A "Crisis Of Faith"

3 min read

The north is experiencing a “crisis of faith” in the government’s election-winning promise to level up, according to metro mayor Dan Jarvis, as Tory and Labour MPs unite today to discuss the region’s economic needs.

The Labour MP and mayor of South Yorkshire will say that Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting the north of England, and the subsequent economic downturn has meant the region is now “on course for levelling down”.

Jarvis’ Westminster Hall debate “support for the economy in the north of England” comes as MPs from across the region and those in newly gained Tory seats have been increasingly critical of whether the government is still committed to closing the economic gap between the north and south.

Last month central government faced a bruising public clash with the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham over the resources they offered to go into a Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown, after the ex-Labour minister demanded 80 percent furlough for workers and more compensation for businesses. Despite turning down his requests, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has since extended furlough at 80 percent until March 2021 for any area that needs to go into lockdown. 

Also due to speak in the debate is former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry, who demanded the Prime Minister provide a clear route out of the localised restrictions that parts of the North had been living under since the summer with a letter signed by 50 Tory MPs.

He will be joined in the debate today by “blue wall” backbench Conservatives elected in 2019, Imran Ahmad Khan, Wakefield, Miriam Cates, Penistone and Stocksbridge, and Simon Fell, Barrow.

A recent poll for PoliticsHome by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that only 35 percent of people nationally still believe the government is committed to levelling up.

Jarvis will say today: “COVID has hit the North hard. We have a disproportionate number of cases and hospitalisations. The pandemic has affected deprived areas more, and the North still has far too many of them.

“Our economy has been equally exposed. In South Yorkshire, the level of people claiming unemployment-related benefits is now higher than any time since the mid 1990s, when we were still in the aftermath of the pit closures.

“We’re at risk of undoing a quarter of a century of painful progress.

“The brutal reality is that the North is now on course for levelling down, not levelling up.”

He said polls were showing a "a wider crisis of faith visible in the North", with a survey conducted in September by Savanta ComRes for ITV showing two-thirds of people in the North were not confident the government can deliver on its promise.

He will say the Comprehensive Spending review having been reduced to a one year time frame by the Chancellor because of coronavirus risks impacting on long-term economic planning for the North.

The Local Growth Fund, which provides regional investment should be extended to March 2021, he will argue, and request a “New Deal For the North” that invests in apprenticeships and jobs, infrastructure and decarbonisation projects.

The government has said repeatedly that it is committed to its levelling up agenda for all parts of the UK and after Berry’s letter, a No 10 spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling up across the country and building back better after coronavirus.

“We stood at the last election on a solemn promise that we would improve people’s lives, and although the pandemic has meant 2020 is not the year we all hoped it would be, our ambitions for the country are unchanged.”

Johnson’s 2019 manifesto said they would get away from a “Whitehall knows best approach” and instead “trust people and communities to make the decisions that are right for them”.

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