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DLUHC: Foundations for Growth

Volume 726: debated on Wednesday 25 January 2023

One of the Prime Minister’s top priorities is growing the economy, spreading opportunity right across the country. Levelling up is central to that mission. Today I am delighted to update the House on further progress being made to deliver the right foundations for growth through increased innovation, strong local leadership, and pride in place for communities.

First, on investment zones. This country has no shortage of growth industries, whether in advanced manufacturing, renewable industries or life sciences. And we have no shortage of world-class universities. But where we have underperformed is leveraging the success of these industries and research to support growth across the whole country. That is my guiding mission for investment zones. We will shortly begin a process to identify where zones will be located, guided by three principles. First, that Government cannot create clusters, but it can create the conditions for them to succeed. Secondly, success requires fiscal support, but also a wider range of interventions, whether land assembly, housing, transport, or skills, to tackle the specific barriers each cluster faces to growth. And thirdly, that can only happen in partnership with strong local leadership over the long-term.

Secondly, on nationally significant infrastructure projects. Working with BEIS, DEFRA, DFT and HMT we are modernising the approach to major projects and we will shortly publish an action plan setting out reforms to the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime that will streamline and speed up the consenting process. These important reforms will boost investor confidence in major infrastructure and help Government to improve energy security, achieve net zero and deliver the transport connectivity, water and waste management facilities this country needs.

Thirdly, on backing local leadership to regenerate their local areas. I am today announcing that I will shortly lay before Parliament secondary legislation setting up two new mayoral development corporations in Tees valley. These will drive a major regeneration of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough town centres and attract businesses and people back to these centres, making them vibrant, safe, and pleasant places in which to live and work. We are also in talks with both Greater Manchester and the West Midlands to strengthen the hands of both Mayors. We are exploring options to devolve more power, including in areas such as housing, to these combined authorities. Further details will be set out in the trailblazer devolution deals that will be published in due course. Alongside this, as part of our national reforms to ensure that all homes are free from the types of poor conditions and hazards that led to the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, I am today announcing £30 million to support the Mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands combined authorities to support improvements in the quality of social housing in their areas.

Fourthly, as we take steps to devolve more power to local leaders we are also backing this with clear accountability. We announced in the levelling up White Paper that we would establish a new Office for Local Government (Oflog), which will empower citizens to hold local leaders to account, while supporting local leaders to innovate and drive self-improvement. I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Lord (Amyas) Morse to the position of interim chair of the Office for Local Government. Lord Morse brings to the role a wealth of experience in public sector service delivery and performance, and will provide independent advice, support and challenge to Oflog’s strategic vision, functions and delivery. My Department will shortly recruit for a new chief executive for this important body.

Fifthly, to level up truly we must also ensure that people feel safe in their communities. We know that this is a real priority for our communities who want strong, practical action to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Graffiti, vandalism, disorder and evidence of drug use makes daily life a misery. Indeed, for many, tackling this blight is a prerequisite to levelling up. This requires a multifaceted response. Working with the Home Office, the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice, we will shortly announce plans that will deliver for communities, giving them the confidence that the places they love can and will be protected and enhanced.