Improving opportunities and outcome's for people across the UK
The publication of the Levelling Up White Paper is an incredibly important step towards the Government's goal of improving opportunities and outcomes for people in every part of the UK, but particularly in those places that have traditionally been seen as "left behind".
The United Kingdom is an unparalleled success story. We have one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies. Ours is the world’s most spoken language. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any country other than America. But not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline.
The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine. Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery. (Michael Gove, Levelling Up Secretary)
It's time to double down on delivering our election manifesto
Alongside delivering Brexit, uniting and levelling up the country was one of the main issues on which we fought and won the 2019 election. Since then, we have faced COVID-19 - one of the toughest challenges our country has had to deal with in living memory. So I welcomed the Government putting its efforts into tackling the pandemic, but now that we’re getting back to normal, it's absolutely right that we double down on delivering on our 2019 election promises.
There has been significant progress in levelling up already - the £24m Stocksbridge Town Deal, £15m from the Future High Street Fund for Barnsley, and the £37m Levelling Up Fund grant for Sheffield - this White Paper gives us the overarching strategy and the wider policy framework to guide the programme going forward.
Levelling up is a national mission - led by the Government but also involving businesses, local authorities, education providers, and communities - to rebalance our economy and make sure everyone can achieve their full potential regardless of where in the country they live.
The White Paper includes a number of specific goals that the Government's work will focus on delivering. Some of these are based around people - improving wellbeing in areas with lower health outcomes, and making sure children leave primary school with the literacy and numeracy skills they need - whilst others are about strengthening local economies and investing in infrastructure.
All of these goals are important and relevant to our towns and villages, but there are three of the more goals related to the places we live that I'm particularly pleased to see:
- Transport - connecting people to jobs, education, and services is vital to improve access to opportunities in our towns and villages. Better transport means investing in new rail and bus links, making services more reliable, and delivering integrated ticketing. This will be delivered by devolving more powers and funding to Metro Mayors in places like South Yorkshire. The difference in public transport provision between London and Yorkshire is stark, so levelling up means giving us a local transport network people can rely on.
- Manufacturing – industry has a strong heritage in places like South Yorkshire, but also show us the future of well-paid, skilled jobs. Leading a manufacturing revival will help to boost productivity and economic opportunities with clusters of research and innovation like the AMRC in Sheffield. This will be supported by investment in skills to make sure that the skills of the workforce meet the needs of local employers.
- Communities - people deserve to feel proud of their towns and cities, regardless of where they live. This means giving local communities the powers and the funding they need to lead a regeneration revolution - redeveloping industrial areas to encourage new jobs, investing in high streets, and funding cultural and community activities and facilities and importantly, delivering high quality new homes. Devolving decision-making from Whitehall to South Yorkshire will play a big part in delivering these changes.
Sheffield has already been announced as one of the first cities to benefit from new funding for urban redevelopment. £13m will be used to help fund regeneration in central Sheffield and attract new businesses and housing. This will tie in with the £37m from the Levelling Up Fund for Castlegate and Attercliffe, and I hope that by reopening the railway line between Sheffield and Stocksbridge we can help to connect people from our constituency to these new jobs and opportunities.
I'm confident that the Levelling Up White Paper offers us the blueprint we need to transform our communities and improve the lives of local people. We have so much potential and talent, and this strategy will enable us to make the most of every opportunity.