Cllr Julie Gibson, the Lancashire County Labour Group Spokesperson for Economic Development and Growth has reacted with concern on recently released figures which show the North “lagging behind” when it comes to investment and growth across the UK. Her comments come after the IPPR North – a branch of the Institute for Public Policy Research – said that, despite Boris Johnson’s repeated pledges to level up the country, “money simply hasn’t followed the rhetoric”.
Cllr Gibson said: “The IPPR report shows that public spending in the north has fallen behind the England average despite the government’s flagship “levelling up” agenda. A local example which illustrates this is the Skelmersdale Train Station. In 2019, the Government promised that the delivery of a train station in Skelmersdale would show how important the levelling up agenda was. It was mentioned in their 2019 election manifesto with Grant Shapps MP saying how vital it was to the town and the wider West Lancashire Economy. Yet three years on, the Conservative Government have scrapped the train station saying it was “poor value for money” – so much for levelling up.
Cllr Gibson said: “The IPPR analysis of ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures found that per-person public spending in the north went from being £246 higher than the England average in 2019, the year Mr Johnson took office, to £86 under the average in 2021. These figures call into question the governments “levelling up” agenda. Instead of “levelling up” we are actually “keeping down” investment and development in the North which is now lower and has grown less than other areas of the country.”
“The Government is busy making policy by slogans, we have the “Northern powerhouse” “levelling up” – all slogans, yet as the report shows, there is no substance behind these slogans. We are facing a cost-of-living crisis, we need “substance” not slogans. Real, tangible levelling up should target this with investment in areas that need it and not just be reduced to a photo opportunity or a soundbite.”