Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. Photo: Andrew Parsons,10 Downing Street/CC

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. Photo: Andrew Parsons,10 Downing Street/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Usemu Makaya Birmingham North Socialist Party

The Conservative Party has wheeled out its ‘levelling up’ announcements, promised during the 2019 general election, targeting 12 ‘missions of development’ to be reached by the decade’s end. This agenda falls short of addressing the needs of the most deprived areas, especially in response to the pandemic’s economic impact.

The new policy doesn’t actually provide any new money, just rehashing previous announcements. The Tories have cut £15 billion from the annual central government grants for councils. Council budgets have been cut by 60% since the 2008 financial crash.

In the report, old measures of deprivation are gone. Instead, the Conservatives introduce a new set of criteria, which omits crucial factors such as crime, health and income! The report fails to even specifically mention rural areas.

Some of the most prosperous areas – most notoriously Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Richmondshire – are included in the highest priority rank, while many of the most deprived areas are stuck in limbo.

The finer print fares little better. There is a £28-per-capita gap between the money for Conservative-run authorities and their Labour counterparts.

One of the only real announcements is powers for more regional mayors. The Tories claim that this could better allocate local spending. But it would only make it easier for one person to take unpopular decisions to cut and privatise services, and favour business interests.

West Bromwich, my hometown, ranked among the 30% most deprived areas in England before the pandemic. A major local issue is the risk to the borough’s young people of violence and exploitation – in part, this has been traced to recent unemployment spikes aggravated by the inaccessibility of training, and a lack of services for young people’s emotional and mental health needs. The current levelling-up policy does not address this.

Labour is no alternative

Ross Saunders, Socialist Party Wales secretary

Labour’s response to the Tory ‘levelling-up’ plans must be the most uninspiring thing I’ve ever read. Fighting bullshit with bullshit – contentless platitudes about ‘city centre regeneration’ and ‘anti-social behaviour’.

A real socialist would explain we could wipe out unemployment, end insecurity at work and reindustrialise on a green basis only if we nationalise big companies and direct them to carry out a job creation programme.