Rotherham levelling-up row highlights shifting political sands: The Yorkshire Post says

Blaming uncaring and remote “bigwigs” for leaving poorer areas behind has been a familiar refrain since the imposition of austerity measures a decade ago - but in a sign of how much Boris Johnson has been able to change political perspectives since becoming Prime Minister, the accusation this time is not coming from Labour towards the Conservative Government but from a Tory MP pointing the finger at rival local politicians.

Alexander Stafford (centre) campaigning before the 2019 General Election with then Chancellor Sajid Javid.
Alexander Stafford (centre) campaigning before the 2019 General Election with then Chancellor Sajid Javid.

Alexander Stafford who was elected in Rother Valley in the 2019 General Election for the first time in the constituency’s history, claimed in a Commons debate last night that the Labour-run Rotherham Council and Sheffield City Region authority have been overlooking the villages in his constituency for investment - a situation he says can be fixed if Rotherham can secure up to £20m via the Government’s “life-changing” new Levelling Up fund.

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In response, Rotherham Council’s Labour leader Chris Read has said “it is a bit rich” for Mr Stafford to suggest his authority is favouring certain locations for investment, given the Levelling Up fund itself does exactly that - most controversially with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s largely affluent Richmondshire seat given a higher priority for funding than Rotherham’s Labour-controlled neighbour Barnsley. Mr Read also has a point when he states areas are in need sustainable and reliable funding streams rather than being pitted against each other to access a one-off pot of money.

But given Rotherham Council went from zero to 20 Conservative councillors in last week’s election, Mr Stafford’s approach appears to be cutting through with voters in an area historically resistant to the Tories. The shifting political sands will see the rhetoric continue to fly in Rotherham - but voters will be judging their politicians on whether they can deliver real improvements to their communities and lives.

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