Aerial view of Hartlepool

Survival of levelling up: Mayor seeks tory leadership commitment

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has written to the candidates who have put their names forward as the next leader of the Conservative Party, to ensure the survival of the Levelling Up scheme.

With the very real positives of the Levelling Up Fund on show in Teesside, Hartlepool, and Darlington, Houchen is well placed to understand the positive impact that Levelling Up has had and can have in the future.

In the letter, he said:

“Here in Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool we have seen the very real impact of Levelling Up. In recent months, under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, we have seen huge investment into areas that have been forgotten by previous governments of all colours. I would like to think that whatever anybody’s politics, this can be seen as a hugely positive thing.”

With the aim of the letter being to get the candidates to sign a pledge to show support to the Levelling Up Fund, there are five points that they would agree too:

  • Committing to ensuring that the Ministry for the Department for Levelling Up is run by a Cabinet level Secretary of State.
  • Committing to reforming the Treasury Green Book process of evaluation. This has huge impacts in the North of England, as it discriminates against towns and rural areas.
  • Committing to collaborating with Mayors around the country to further devolution in England.
  • Committing to the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail, improving the poor state of East-West connectivity in the north.
  • Committing to starting to devolve tax from Whitehall in areas where metro mayors are employed, allowing for real fiscal responsibility.

He added:

“In Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool this has allowed us to secure more than £419 million to invest in local priorities such as improving public transport, upgrading railway stations across the region, supporting local businesses to create good-quality well paid jobs, and transforming local town centres to make them more vibrant, welcoming places.

In 2019 voters across the north put their faith in Boris Johnson and the Conservatives because he promised to invest and level up their towns; providing significant funding for places like Redcar, Dewsbury, Blackpool and Bury. Generations of families in these towns had never considered voting for us before the 2019 general election and we cannot ignore these voters. They put their trust in us for the first time to deliver for their communities, communities that until that point had been ignored by governments of all stripes.

"Despite the pandemic progress has been made and no candidate can backslide on the 2019 commitment, red wall voters cannot be ignored. That’s why I’m calling on every MP that throws their hat into the ring to sign up to my five-point Levelling Up Pledge. The uncertainty of a leadership election cannot lead to uncertainty about the future of levelling up. There must be unwavering support for this critical policy otherwise red wall and left behind areas will clearly and loudly make their feelings known at the ballot box in 2024."

At the time of writing, eleven people have put their bids forward to take over from the incumbent Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson. They are: Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Grant Shapps, Nadhim Zahawi, Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, and Penny Mordaunt, with Liz Truss and Rehman Chishti being the latest to join the fight.

With control up in the air, you can find out more about how local government can take control of their communities through levelling up by registering to the Levelling Up Virtual Event on 17th November. Register here

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