Our ambitious levelling up agenda will unlock the potential of the entire country
In recent weeks, the government has applied a laser-like focus to restoring trust in the economy and dealing decisively with inflation.
At the same time, however, it is right that our attention has also been firmly fixed on our levelling up missions – on bridging the social and economic divides that have been holding this country back.
That’s because, as readers of The House will know, the 12 long-term missions of the Levelling Up White Paper have only been made more urgent by the difficulties we face today.
Closing the regional gaps in pay, employment, and productivity is still the surest way to grow our economy and combat rising bills.
Increasing research and development investment outside the greater South East remains the best means for regions beyond London to continue innovating and attracting the best and brightest minds from here in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Education and high-quality skills training are more important now than ever to ensure that the next generation can compete and thrive within an increasingly competitive global market.
And in recent months, we have gone further and faster in our levelling up agenda than anyone could have predicted.
Through our landmark Social Housing Regulation Bill and ‘Fairer Private Rented Sector’ White Paper, we have begun resetting the tenant/landlord relationship and driving up housing standards across the board. Together, they bring us one step closer to fulfilling our pledge to halve the number of poor-quality homes in this country by 2030.
We’ve put rocket boosters under our devolution mission too, with multi-billion-pound deals agreed in 2022 with York and North Yorkshire, the East Midlands, Cornwall, Norfolk, Suffolk and the North East.
We are also negotiating new, trailblazer deals with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands to push the frontier of mayoral devolution.
For the first time ever, more than 50 per cent of England will be covered by a devolution deal and we are on track to offer a deal to every part of the country that wants one by 2030.
In recent months, we have gone further and faster in our levelling up agenda than anyone could have predicted
And we have begun seizing one of the prizes of Brexit with a series of new freeports that will help us forge closer ties with new markets around the world.
Seven freeports are already up and running, and this month we have confirmed two green freeports in Scotland, creating more than 75,000 new high-skilled, high-wage jobs.
Today, as we unveil the winners from Round Two of the Levelling Up Fund, we are taking another momentous step on our journey.
Projects like Eden Project North, which is benefitting to the tune of £50m, will see a derelict site on Morecambe’s seafront transformed into a world-class tourism destination attracting 740,000 new visitors every year.
Over in Northern Ireland, Belfast International Airport is using levelling up cash to become one of the greenest airports in the UK. New electric buses will ferry passengers to planes and electric ground power will be hooked up to aircraft so they don’t sit idly at the gate burning fuel.
In Dundee, our Levelling Up Fund is supporting the roll out of electric vehicle charging points across the city along with e-bikes and greener public transport. Less than 30 miles south, we’re investing more than £19m to open up the River Leven to more visitors. A re-opened train line with two new stations will bring a wealth of education, culture, and employment opportunities to local people.
Initiatives like this hold the key to unlocking a brighter future for places right across our United Kingdom. Real change in towns and cities that have gone overlooked and under-invested in for too long.
As we whip inflation and tackle the rising cost of living, there will be no waning in our ambition to level up. Four years ago, this government promised the British people a stronger, fairer, more united country. It is a promise we are going to keep.
Dehenna Davison, Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland and levelling up minister
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