Today, to much fanfare, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove unveiled the Government’s plans on levelling up in their much-anticipated white paper. Whilst everyone across the city and the country had hoped for a package of hope, opportunity, and prosperity for our nation’s left behind communities, it appears to have been nothing more than a slogan.
Many of the plans are simply recycled old ones, including some from Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister. There is no new funding and no new ambition for Stoke-on-Trent.
Instead, what we got was yet another cut. In real terms, after the cuts to the Council’s funding since 2018 are considered, we have a cut of £4.9 million to our city.
Labour Group Leader Jane Ashworth OBE said: “It’s disgraceful that the Conservatives are parading around and claiming to be investing in our city when they are continuing to take money away. In Stoke, we have had 12 years of Conservative cuts to our budget, and this year – despite the levelling up funds – is no different.
“If the Conservatives wanted to level up Stoke-on-Trent, they’d spend money on the things that matter to people here: buses, not buildings; CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services), not car parks.
“What this is really about is the lack of ambition the Conservatives have for our city. We want to get on and improve lives for people across Stoke; they want to build new buildings for nice photoshoots. We welcome any new funding for Stoke – we have been calling for it long before the notion of levelling up was conceived – but we do not welcome the Conservative MPs and Councillors treating us like fools. Stoke deserves its fair share, and Labour will make sure we have what we need.”
Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, set out Labour’s 5 tests for levelling up. For levelling up to truly deliver on this promise, the Government must meet the ambitions people have for our own communities. Specifically, this means:
- Good jobs in our home towns, so young people have choices and chances and don’t have to get out to get on.
- Our high streets are thriving because the local economy is thriving, with good local businesses and money in people’s pockets – not just papering over the cracks.
- Our towns and villages are better connected to jobs, opportunities, our family and our friends through good transport, digital infrastructure and affordable housing that we have too often missed out on.
- We get the power to take local decisions for ourselves – ending the system where we have to go cap in hand to Westminster to do what we know will work for us.
- Our town centres are safe and welcoming instead of plagued by anti-social behaviour, with criminals being let off and victims let down.