But levelling up is not dead. Not for the millions of people in the North who voted for change, and who need and deserve to see it delivered.
Across the country, people are working as hard as I can remember and yet are still struggling to make ends meet. Our economy is delivering great gains for too few and nowhere near enough for the rest of us.
Britain is now unique: a major country that believes it can power a modern economy using only a handful of people, in a handful of sectors, in one small corner of the country, while writing off most people in most places and the contribution we have to make.
It is now widely accepted that generating growth is the only way out of the high-tax, low-growth spiral which is hitting people in the North hardest. Recent analysis has shown prices are rising faster for families in Huddersfield, Hull and Doncaster than in London, Oxford or Cambridge.
The only way to solve this is to end a century of huge geographical inequality and build a new economy where every place is given the opportunity and backing to make a contribution.
The failure to create good jobs, by investing in digital, transport and skills in every part of the country, is holding us back.
The Tories said they would change this. But then they axed the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds, downgraded Northern Powerhouse Rail and a new station in Bradford, and halved the Bus
Back Better fund. By 2025 Yorkshire and the Humber will have seen a real-terms cut in development funding of £156m.
We will take a different approach. We will invest £28bn a year every year for a decade to create the clean energy jobs that will help us meet the climate challenge, get money back into people’s pockets and rebuild local economies. The road to net zero is paved with a million jobs.
These are places that within living memory powered the country and built our wealth and influence, where good jobs have been lost.
With them has gone the spending power that sustained thriving high streets, pubs, banks, post offices and bus networks.
Young people have been forced to get out to get on. For those who are left, growing old hundreds of miles from children and grandchildren, this is their inheritance and it has been squandered.
Our coastal and industrial towns stand to benefit the most if we invest now in the clean energy jobs of the future. The last Labour Government created Yorkshire Forward, which recognised the skills in Rotherham and invested in advanced manufacturing and saw the potential for wind energy in Grimsby.
It’s why we have pledged to create at least 30,000 jobs by building three gigafactories for electric car battery production by 2025, and why we have a national insulation mission that will bring Britain’s housing stock up to scratch and create more than 70,000 jobs in the North. We will smash up a century of centralisation and end the system where local leaders have to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall and compete like the Hunger Games for small pot of money that come with conditions attached. Instead, we will put real power back in the hands of local people.
That’s in Darlington I recently announced a powerful new Community Right to Buy, which will mean communities get first refusal when vital local assets like historic buildings, high street shops, football clubs and live music venues come up for sale.
We will build on the Community Ownership Fund to ensure the money is there for communities to step up. By investing in land, energy and housing, taking control of local assets, all of our towns and villages will be able to generate income to reinvest in the community, insulating us from the whims of Tory Chancellors who promise to level up one week and “run the economy like Thatcher” the next.
We will tilt the balance of power back to communities, through new powers, including a licensing scheme for holiday lets, so that coastal and rural areas like Whitby can reap the rewards of thriving tourism while protecting the spirit and fabric of the town and the ability for local people to afford housing.
All of these policies are driven by a commitment to restore to people three things that are ours by right: power, ownership and the opportunity to contribute.
- Lisa Nandy is Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.