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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Levelling Up Secretary offers greater decision-making powers to Durham County Council

The Government released the latest on its levelling up plan on Wednesday announcing one key decision involving the North-East on devolution.

The white paper plans to “transform the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity to all parts of it”, according Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

He says tens of billions could be added to the British economy by boosting underperforming regions.

He also claims says that will be done by backing business, improving connectivity and improving education in areas that have previously lagged.

One major announcement involves County Durham who will be given greater decision-making powers on local issues.

The Government will ask Durham County Council as one of nine authorities to agree a new county deal as part of plans to provide more power to the region in a “devolution revolution” with the offer of a London-style deal for any area of England that wants one.

The County Council reacted by saying: “We will now work with the government, as well as businesses and residents, to establish how devolution would work for the area and to ensure our ambitions for levelling up are supported”.

Councillor Amanda Hopgood, leader of the council, added: “We have worked extremely hard with government to set out why County Durham needs a devolution deal and how this will help us to invest in our local communities going forward.

“It is fantastic news that County Durham has been selected as one of the nine areas to be taken forward for a deal. We have clearly set out a strong and compelling argument to get to this point and we look forward to further discussions with government on how a deal will work for us.”

“The last two years have been a challenge for everyone, but with more local control over economic regeneration, housing, infrastructure and resources, we can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Durham County Council asked to agree new county deal giving them extra powers Image: facebook

Meanwhile South Tyneside is one of seven areas chosen to house a new ‘Justice Collaboration Centre’ as the Government ‘continues to level-up communities’.

The new centre is set to be based at the Viking Business Park in Jarrow and set to create a number of quality jobs.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy responded to the levelling up announcements by saying: “Conservative ministers have left communities up and down the country completely short-changed.

“In Sunderland the disparity between what the government gives and what it takes away is £52.7million.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, said: “Today’s set of repackaged, rehashed and recycled ‘announcements’ is yet another sign the Conservatives are out of ideas and out of energy.”

Jonathan Walker, policy director of the North East England Chamber of Commerce said: ‘For a long time we have campaigned for government to recognise the damage that the inequalities between regions do to the national economy. We therefore welcome the Levelling Up White Paper.”

The 332 page document reveals however, People in the region have the lowest average wages in the UK, at £41 below the national average. Life expectancy in the region is 3.5 years below the national average.

Michael Gove says the Levelling Up White Paper is a “long-term economic and social plan” that shifts power to the North and Midlands.

The government’s 12 Missions to Level Up the UK it hopes to achieve by 2030

  • Pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.
  • Domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South-East will increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.
  • Local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.
  • The UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.
  • The number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90 per cent of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third.
  • The number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.
  • The gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years.
  • Well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing.
  • Pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.
  • Renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50 per cent, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.
  • Homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas.
  • Every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.
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