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Michael Gove Defends Levelling Up Funding On Rishi Sunak's Patch, New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern To Resign

Levelling up funding has been given to Catterick Garrison in Rishi Sunak's constituency (Alamy)

5 min read

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has defended the decision to give long-awaited funding to a town in Rishi Sunak’s constituency.

The government has announced more than £2.1 billion in funding shared between over 100 projects, but Labour has criticised the allocation claiming it disproportionately favours London and the South East.

In 2021, £1.7 billion was awarded to 105 projects that come under the government's flagship 2019 election promise.

One of the areas benefiting from the money include the town of Catterick Garrison, which sits in Sunak’s North Yorkshire constituency, which will get £19 million to develop its town centre.

Gove insisted that the government had “objective criteria” when it decided where money was being allocated.

“We are giving money to Catterick, but that money is going to the biggest army infantry base in the country," he told Sky News.

"I don't think anyone would deny that investing money in making sure that our service families have absolutely the best circumstances to support them. I don't think anyone would deny that is a good use of money.”

He also brushed off criticism from Labour that successful bids were disproportionately in more affluent areas of the country.

“There are areas of deprivation across the whole United Kingdom. I think it is the case actually that more Labour local authorities than Conservative local authorities receive money,” he added.

Sunak has said that the cash will help “grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere”, and has made delivering on the project, pledged by his predecessor Boris Johnson during the 2019 general election campaign, a central pilar of his own premiership.  

He added: “By reaching even more parts of the country than before, we will build a future of optimism and pride in people’s lives and the places they call home”.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister to stand down 

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern, who has been Prime Minister of New Zealand since 2017, has announced she is resigning as she no longer has "enough in the tank" to lead.

She said she will stand down no later than 7 February, with her replacement set to be voted on this weekend, but will remain an MP up until the next election, set for October.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not,” she told a press conference.

“I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern said she had reflected over her future during the summer break, and had decided that “for me, it’s time” to step down.

“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” she continued.

Ardern became the world’s youngest female head of state in 2017 after she was elected at the age of 37, and also became the second world leader ever to give birth while in office.

She said she was looking forward to spending more time with her family, and hoped to finally get married to her long-term partner Clarke Gayford.

Boris Johnson compares Vladimir Putin to “the fat boy in Dickens”

Boris Johnson

Ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared Vladimir Putin to a Charles Dickens character as he insisted the Russian president would not use nuclear weapons.

Speaking at an event on Ukraine at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said it was “nonsense” to suggest that the conflict would escalate in such a way.

“Putin wants to present it as a nuclear stand-off between Nato and Russia.

“Nonsense. He’s not going to use nuclear weapons. He’s like the fat boy in Dickens, he wants to make our flesh creep. He wants us to think about it. He’s never going to do it.”

He is referring to a servant character in Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers, known as the fat boy, who says that he “wants to make your flesh creep” with a shocking revelation.

Johnson said observers should “stop worrying about Kremlinology” and what Putin’s thinking was, adding that it was “difficult to work out what’s gonna happen in UK politics, let alone in the Kremlin.”

“What we’ve got to focus on is supporting Ukraine and giving Volodymyr Zelensky the tools he needs to finish the job. And they can win and they will win.”

Strikes latest: Nurses and ambulance staff to walk out on same day

NHS strikes

Strike action is set to see a major escalation after it was announced that ambulance staff and nurses will both go on strike on 6 February.

The announcement from the GMB union of four new dates that ambulance workers would walk out came as nurses began their latest two-day strike.

Both GMB and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are calling for above-inflation pay rises, as well as improvements to working conditions.

Saffron Cordery, the NHS Providers interim chief executive, said the threat of combined action by two unions was a “huge concern” for services.

“Trusts have been warning for months that coordinated strikes were a possibility if the Government and unions failed to reach an early agreement on this year’s pay award,” she said.

“The prospect of ambulance workers and nurses striking on the same day is a huge concern. It could be the biggest day of industrial action the NHS has ever seen. 

She said “nobody in the NHS” wants more strikes, and that trust leaders “understand why overstretched staff have reached this point”.

“We need ministers to get round the table with the unions urgently to deal with the key issue of pay for this financial year, otherwise there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” 

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Read the most recent article written by Eleanor Langford - Who Is Going On Strike And When In February?