Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has slammed the government and the current crop of candidates to take over from Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, over the potential scrapping of the levelling up project.
Levelling up has been the government’s flagship campaign, as it looks to end regional inequalities, improve the quality of life in areas with high levels of deprivation, and increase the quality of opportunities around the country. This has been used largely to good effect since it was launched, with councils around the country applying to funding to increase investment, improve the quality of life and the jobs, education available.
A worrying sign, however, has emerged from the current campaign to be the new leader of the Conservative Party, as the outgoing Prime Minister resigned last week. This worrying sign is the fact that only one of the leadership candidates has mentioned levelling up as part of their policies.
Tom Tugendhat has made the saving of the levelling up funding a key part of his agenda, with the hope of it appealing to members of the party in the north and the midlands.
Not only did the Mayor express worry at the potential loss of levelling up funding for those communities that need it to improve the standard of living, but he also raised the issue of a general election following the appointment of the new Prime Minister.
“They’re in a comfort zone and they’re not addressing the issues that are right there in front of the country. This person will walk into office and have to deal with them from day one so this contest, I’m afraid, is not serious at the moment and all of them need to put aside the sort of gimmicks and the jibes at each other and set out how they will deal with the serious issues facing the country from day one.
If I look at the policies of all of them, levelling up will be dead in the water at the end of this Tory leadership campaign, they’re all talking about major tax cuts and a much smaller stage, it can’t put that forward and then be serious about levelling up the country, levelling up the north of England, so I would say if that is where we end up at the end of this leadership election, there has to be a general election, because that is a major change from the manifesto on which all of these people were elected.”
Burnham’s statement does not come alone, as Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, and Huddersfield MP, Barry Sheerman, also spoke about their concern about the lack of levelling up planning from the current contenders.