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Levelling-up Funding: Economically Deprived Communities

Volume 744: debated on Monday 22 January 2024

The Government have set clear and ambitious missions to end long-standing geographical inequality in the UK. In targeting levelling-up funding, we consider a range of factors, including levelling-up need. These metrics draw on the extensive evidence base of what matters for levelling up, as set out in the levelling-up White Paper.

I am interested in the Minister’s comments about targeting. Deprivation is made worse by bad policy decisions. The bedroom tax significantly impacted and brought an end to a multimillion-pound housing renovation scheme in the village of Horden in my constituency. Can the Minister explain to my constituents why our levelling-up bid aimed at regenerating Horden, which is ranked in the bottom 10% for the UK, was rejected?

We selected the bids based on strict criteria and the methodology is set out on I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is disappointed that his constituency did not benefit. We funded a project in County Durham in round 1 of the levelling-up fund, and I am happy to work with him to see what more we could do to invest in County Durham.

The household support fund has given a lifeline to councils across the UK, including Bracknell Forest Council, and it is discretionary. Will the Minister confirm whether that fund will be extended beyond this financial year?

I cannot make spending commitments today, but I can say that my hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for his constituents and I am happy to ensure that the relevant Minister is able to meet him to discuss the matter further.

The Secretary of State is the deputy chair of the Tata Steel transition board, so if his Department is at all serious about levelling up, will he acknowledge just how devastating Tata Steel’s announcement was for Port Talbot and for families, workers and communities across south Wales? Why will the Minister not work with Business and Trade Ministers to look again with the company at a longer, fairer transition that protects our sovereign steelmaking capabilities and our communities?

The hon. Lady knows how important steel is to me; my constituency was deeply affected when SSI closed in 2015. We have already provided £100 million of support, but I am happy to ensure that the relevant Minister meets her to discuss how we can provide further support.

It is very positive that Stoke-on-Trent has been included as one of the levelling-up partnership schemes. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that every part of Stoke-on-Trent gets levelling-up support so that all communities, including those in my constituency and particularly the town of Longton, can benefit from the scheme?

The levelling-up partnership will be transformational for Stoke-on-Trent, building on the levelling-up investment we have already made there. I was pleased to meet my hon. Friend last week to discuss his priorities, including the town of Longton, and we hope to make further announcements about that in the coming months.

I am glad that my delayed Avanti West Coast train got me here on time, with a sprint for me at the end.

Data revealed by the Centre for Cities today shows that after 14 years, towns and cities in every corner of our country have been levelled down, left behind and left out of pocket. On average, people are over £10,000 a year worse off as a result of the sluggish growth since 2010. Analysis of the country’s largest cities and towns reveals that every place is out of pocket, north and south, from former industrial towns to major cities. Fourteen years after taking power, does the Minister accept that the British people are worse off now than they were then?

I absolutely do not accept that. The right hon. Lady seems to forget the reality that we have had a financial crash, covid-19 and the Scottish Government failing to support cities like Aberdeen with the oil and gas industry. She can look at the evidence of what we are doing through levelling up. We have invested more than £4.8 billion of levelling-up funding directly into communities the length and breadth of the country, and we will continue to do that.

The Minister says “look at the evidence” and I am looking at the evidence—14 years of a Conservative Government, elected on a promise to level up the country, which has left working people worse off. In Manchester, the average household is over £8,000 a year out of pocket. Down the road in Burnley, the loss amounts to £28,000. Will they now listen to our proposals to reform planning, reinstate housing targets and get Britain building again, or will the country have to suffer another final year of failure?

The Labour party has bankrupted Birmingham, and it would bankrupt Britain. We have made huge progress towards levelling up, including by rolling out gigabit broadband, introducing educational investment in areas, opening new freeports, increasing the national living wage, recruiting more police officers, funding regeneration and community ownership, and devolving more power to local Mayors. We will continue to level up.

The European Union has provided greater funding support to economically deprived communities in Scotland than the UK Government have with their mismanaged levelling-up fund. If Scotland were still part of the EU, we would have been entitled to a multibillion-pound share of the €750 billion NextGenerationEU fund. Why should Scots be happy with the tiny sliver of Westminster levelling-up funding that we have been given, when Westminster has denied Scotland a share of the far greater opportunity of EU development funding?

I completely reject the hon. Lady’s assertion. We have invested £212 million in Scotland through the UK shared prosperity fund so far, £465 million through the levelling-up fund and £18.3 million through the community renewal fund—I could go on, Mr Speaker. If the hon. Lady wants to support constituencies in Scotland, she should back our Bill later today.