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Tory levelling up is a sham but Labour has a plan to save it

Credit: (Clare / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo)

4 min read

After a decade of promising to call time on the postcode lottery, this government is failing to deliver. With Britain’s regions further apart than ever, the Conservatives’ flagship project is a sham and a scam. The mask has slipped, and the public has seen the hollowness at its heart.

An empty slogan will not pay decent wages, false promises won’t build secure homes, and soundbites won’t empower local communities to really take back control of their futures. The truth is that their project was flawed from the start; you can’t level up from the top down.

A recent Harvard report about regional inequality across Britain spoke of the need to push power out of Westminster with an ambitious approach toward devolving key powers to the English regions. These principles are at the heart of Labour’s approach. Devolution is a core component of our plan to rebuild the UK economy and rebuild trust in politics, truly level up local economies and take back control of our communities.

That’s why the next Labour government will introduce a Take Back Control Bill to oversee the biggest transfer of power from Westminster in British political history.  

The bill will provide the framework for economic devolution to towns and cities across England, forming the cornerstone of Labour’s mission to rebuild Britain. It will deliver on our mission to build an economy in which growth is created by and for everyone, everywhere, boosting living standards and good jobs across the country.  

Spreading power and the levers of economic policymakers to people on the ground with strong links to local industries and deep knowledge of local assets will allow for better-tailored interventions and investment to help ensure growth and higher living standards in every part of our country.  

To challenge the hoarding of potential in our economy, we must win the war against the hoarders in Westminster

Under this government, levelling up has become a scramble for funds, with local leaders and administrations caught in never-ending bidding cycles for disparate and piecemeal pots of cash. 

True levelling up is not about robbing Peter to pay Paul. While this approach may provide temporary relief for certain high streets, ultimately, it fails to get to the heart of the issue: to reverse entrenched regional inequalities, now endemic across England.

Labour will set a presumption towards devolving power, outlining the processes by which local leaders can create partnerships and negotiate for new powers within a clear framework for accountability. Our bill will also put a duty on the government to respond to requests, enabling local leaders to agree bespoke powers where they demonstrate the capability and competence to deliver on them.

By devolving power to communities, we aim to give them a direct say in their future. Mayors are already accomplishing great things with the authority entrusted to them by their communities. Labour will give mayors the power and flexibility to turbocharge growth in towns and cities across the country.  

Labour will give towns and cities the tools they need to develop credible, long-term growth plans: giving mayors new powers over planning and housing targets; working with mayors on delivering a transformative programme of transport infrastructure investment; and empowering mayors and combined authorities to play a leading in establishing technical excellence colleges.  

We will also look to expand economic devolution and work with other groups of local authorities to set up more combined authorities – with access to enhanced powers. Local leaders will be able to take on powers where they can demonstrate an exemplary framework for managing public money and the capacity to take new powers on.  

This is how Labour will ensure towns and cities have what they need to boost local economies, deliver the homes they need and create the high-quality jobs communities want.  

If we want to challenge the hoarding of potential in our economy, then we must win the war against the hoarders in Westminster, give power back and put communities in control. That’s what true levelling up means. 

Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston and shadow minister for employment rights and levelling up

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