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Regional Economic Inequalities: Fiscal Steps

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2024

This Government are committed to supporting all parts of the United Kingdom. In October we announced the £1.1 billion long-term plan for towns, which gives 55 towns up to £20 million of endowment-style funding. We are delivering an ambitious programme of investment zones and devolution deals, we ae continuing to support local growth through the UK shared prosperity fund and we are investing billions to improve local transport connections in our regions outside London.

By their own measures, the Government are failing on almost half of their levelling-up missions in the east of England. Meanwhile, the Cambridge sub-region, which is a net contributor to the Exchequer, has vital transport projects on hold or awaiting finance. When will the Treasury stop stalling growth and give power back to the regions, which know best what needs to be done in their area?

This Government are committed to levelling up by boosting growth, raising living standards and spreading opportunity throughout the country in several different ways. The hon. Gentleman talks about giving more power to local areas, and he will know that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is getting a £97 million devolution deal. He will also know that Cambridge received some £14 million as part of the shared prosperity fund to spend on local projects. I reject his assertion; the people of Cambridge are benefiting from this Government.

The way to reduce regional inequality is to ensure that growth happens everywhere across the country. One way to do that is to support small and medium-sized enterprises and community enterprises, which are particularly located in under-served regions. I commend the Government for the recovery loan scheme, which has been a lifeline to many small businesses and community enterprises. Can the Minister tell us whether that scheme is likely to be renewed? Hundreds of millions of pounds of private investment is waiting on the Government to make a decision.

My hon. Friend has a long history as a great champion for community organisations. I will write to him on his specific question.