MPs and council leaders from across the East of England have come together to call for immediate action from the government, in regard to the levelling up of transport, education, skills, health and housing in the region.
The call comes alongside a desire for a Levelling Up the East Delivery Partnership that would see central and local government working together to accelerate the delivery of what local leaders see as a crucial agenda. The publication of the ‘ground-breaking’ Levelling Up the East of England 2023/2030 report was welcomed by both government and business leaders, with the report assessing how the levelling up of the region is going.
It has been found there is low levels of confidence when it comes to the achievement of key targets in five policy areas that are key not only to the region’s development, but also the government’s wider levelling up agenda.
Improving educational attainment, developing better skills, improving transport, ensuring that longer healthy living is achievable, and delivering more affordable housing are all top priorities for the East of England, however the report found that:
- Spend per capital on transport was £621 per head, which is considerably lower than the spend of £1,212 per head in London and the UK average of £6581.
- There is an urgent need for another look funding when it comes to education, with three councils in the region sitting in the top 40 worst funded in England. This also sees the attainment on writing and maths at 64%, below the national average and well short of the target of 90%.
- Participation in skills training is currently the lowest of any region in England, despite the East of England having ‘the economy of the future.’ This means that life sciences, agri-tech and green energy are key components of the economy, whilst there are also good rates of pay and productivity alongside having more vacances than there are unemployed people.
- Spend on health is the lowest of any region in the country, with £2,889 being spent in comparison with the £3,236 being spent nationally. This is despite a population growth of half a million in the ten years between 2011 and 2021, with this inability for funding to keep pace resulting in low confidence in the government’s target for increasing healthy life expectancy by 2023 being achieved.
- 100,000 people are currently residing on council housing waiting lists, 1 in every 422 people are technically homeless, 25% of all private rented homes are classed as ‘non-decent’ and house prices are more then eight times the incomes, meaning that urgent action is needed across all of these issues.
Councillor Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council and Chair of EELGA, said:
“On education, we are calling for a revised funding formula for rural schools plus more special education needs funding going direct to council. On skills, we want to see ‘skills devolution’ to allow opportunities for greater local co-ordination and oversight of skills funding. On housing, there is an urgent need for more support for First Time Buyers and for more social housing.
“Fairer funding is clearly important but levelling up is not all about money. Partnership and devolution will also be key. The region’s councils and their partners stand ready to work with central government Minister and officials so that there is progress in the next twelve months.”
This has led to the collaboration of local leaders, with them calling for actual action, rather than simply words. The result has left the ongoing issue becoming the subject of a parliamentary debate as well as numerous parliamentary questions and ministerial letters.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge and Co-chair of the East of England APPG, said:
“MPs, Peers, Council Leaders and senior business representatives have joined forces to call for urgent Government action on five issues where there is low confidence in the Government’s performance: better transport, improved education, more skills, increased healthy life expectancy and more affordable housing.
“In the first two rounds of the Levelling Up Fund, the East of England received the third lowest level of funding overall. Whilst we welcome the recognition of the immense economic opportunities the region presents UK PLC, there is a growing concern that there is a lack of understanding in Westminster and Whitehall of the social challenges faced by our region.”
MP for Waveney and Co-chair of the East of England APPG, Peter Aldous, added:
“In some places of the East of England, a good start has been made on levelling up but there is still a very long way to go. Now is the time for real, tangible action on levelling up that will make a positive difference in the next twelve months for residents the length and breadth of the region, on five all important issues.
“For example, on transport, we want to see the long overdue investment in Ely and Haughley Junctions and the re-instatement of four trains per hour to London Stansted Airport. On health, there should be recognition that the funding formula must reflect the fact that the population grew more here in the last ten years than anywhere else in the UK.”