Labour and Tories clash over what 'Levelling Up' means for Burnley and Pendle
Burnley and Pendle's Tory MPs have had their say on the Government's "levelling up" agenda outlined this week, criticised by Labour as delivering very little.
Senior Tory MP, Pendle's Andrew Stephenson, welcomed the Levelling Up White Paper unveiled by the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, and the benefits he claimed it will bring to East Lancashire, while Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said it was already helping make huge strides in Burnley.
The document sets out the Government’s plan to transform the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity to every community in every region of the country, but has been criticised by Labour for not actually providing any "new money".
The Government, meanwhile, says at its heart this new way of making and implementing policy will be 12 bold national missions – all quantifiable and to be achieved by 2030. These missions will be cross-government, cross-society efforts.
Mr Stephenson said: “This Conservative Government is committed to levelling up the whole of the UK – which means increasing wages, living standards, and quality of life for people in Pendle too.
“That is why I am delighted to welcome the Levelling Up White Paper, which lays out the Government’s plan to create jobs, spread opportunity and empower communities across the UK, including in Pendle.
“Through this plan, which builds on work over the last two years, this Conservative Government is delivering on its commitments to the British people by levelling up across the whole of the country.”
But Burnley Council's Labour leader, Coun. Afrasiab Anwar, said the long-awaited White Paper "delivered very little."
He added: "This White Paper was meant to be about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.
"The truth is we have had over a decade of austerity. Under this government, Burnley alone has seen the axing of the Housing Market Renewal, closure of Sure Start centres, lack of investment in education and cuts to Youth and Community centres.
"Households are struggling with the steep rise in the cost of living due to rising fuel prices, increase to VAT and National Insurance, reduced household income and the highest inflation rates for 30 years.
"Add to that the scrapping of the Universal Credit uplift for the most vulnerable, the only increase we have seen under this government is the number of foodbanks.
"In reality we in Burnley don’t ask for Levelling up, returning what has been taken away would be a start.
"Research has revealed that only £36 per person, allocated through the government's levelling up fund, has gone to the parts of England most in need of it.
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said that levelling-up wasn’t a one off policy, but a whole reshaping of what Government is focused on.
He added: "The days of the cities taking all the investment are over - this White Paper makes clear that every decision that Government takes will be based on how it helps to spread opportunity to our towns and villages. Restoring pride, improving jobs and education, and delivering better local infrastructure.
"We’re already making huge strides in Burnley and Padiham. Pioneer Place is under construction, a £20 million Levelling-Up Fund bid is secured, Burnley College has become an Institute of Technology, UcLan is expanding and our businesses are bouncing back.
"I’m going to keep working with Government and the private sector to go even further - using this White Paper as our basis - and making our borough the best place to live, work and study.”
By 2030, the missions set out by the Conservative Government will see:
· The rest of the country’s local public transport systems becoming much closer to London standards,
· The large majority of the country gain access to 5G broadband,
· 90 per cent of primary children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths – with the government’s education efforts focussed on the most disadvantaged parts of the country,
· 55 Education Investment Areas established in parts of the country with weakest school outcomes,
· The mobilisation of £16 billion of local government pension schemes to turbocharge local investment,
· Hundreds of thousands more people completing high quality skills training every year,
· Disparities in healthy life expectancy narrowed,
· The number of poor-quality rented homes halved,
· Kings Cross style regeneration deals across 20 places in England,
· The most run down town centres and communities across the country rejuvenated,
· £39 million to widen access to parks – particularly in areas with the lowest access to green space,
· A significant decrease in serious crime in the most blighted areas,
· Every part of England getting a devolution deal if they wish to.