Skip to main content

Local Growth: Great Grimsby

Volume 672: debated on Monday 24 February 2020

Great Grimsby is the Government’s pilot town deal. We are already investing over £40 million across Government to deliver local priorities. We will provide further significant investment through the £3.6 billion towns fund and we have already delivered funding to help to develop local plans for Great Grimsby’s future prosperity and growth.

Will the Minister let me know what the Government are doing to address the number of vacant commercial properties on our high streets, including in constituencies such as mine?

We have introduced a number of measures to address the number of empty shops on high streets, including our Open Doors pilot project, which matches landlords of empty properties with community groups, and a proposed private register for empty commercial properties. We are also cutting the business rates bills of small retailers by 50% from this April for properties with a rateable value of below £51,000. That is an increase from the one third that we have delivered in the current financial year.

Today, the Manchester Evening News reports on the findings of the Marmot review, which are truly shocking. It says that life expectancy has fallen for women and stalled for men, the likes of which we have not witnessed for 120 years in England. The richest men now live nine and a half years longer than the poorest and the equivalent figure for women is 7.7 years. The north needs not just a rebalancing of capital, but an investment in human capital. How can any levelling up address the austerity-led crisis so that the poorest do not see a decade stolen from their lives?

The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point. Clearly, the process of levelling up is not restricted to that of economic infrastructure; it is also absolutely about making sure that the life chances of individuals are realised to the full. That means, for example, making sure that our skills policy works, and the Government are committed to delivering a new national skills fund—we will announce more about that as part of the Budget process. It also means that it is really important that we get the process of skills devolution right, and we are keen to make sure that we work with strong local mayoral leaders to make sure that they deliver those budgets in a way that makes a real difference. This is clearly a long-term challenge. We need to make sure that we get the right devolution models in place so that such things as the towns fund and the future high streets fund are complemented by comparable work on life chances.