Boris Johnson's government has just weeks to save its levelling-up agenda, Dan Jarvis tells Great Northern Conference

The Government’s credibility on its levelling up agenda is on the line and has just weeks to be saved, according to Yorkshire’s only metro mayor.

In a keynote speech at the Great Northern Conference on October 22, Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis will say the handling of local lockdowns in the North has damaged trust and confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver on its manifesto commitment.

The economic fallout from the pandemic could ‘‘level down’ regions like South Yorkshire, setting them back decades and facing an unemployment crisis not seen since the closure of the coalfields.

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Mr Jarvis, who is also a Barnsley MP, warns divisions and dissatisfaction will widen among the public if the Government fails to address underlying economic and social inequalities, which have been exacerbated by Covid.

The Treasury must deliver substantial investment at the Comprehensive Spending Review if it is levelling up promises are to remain meaningful, he says.

Mr Jarvis is giving a pre-recorded speech at the start of the event organised by The Yorkshire Post in conjunction with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which will also feature speeches by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

It comes after Mr Jarvis agreed a deal with the Government which will see the Sheffield City Region placed into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions. He and council leaders in the region were able to secure a £41 million support package from the Government but the talks were described by one leader as a "charade".

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis

He will say in hs speech: “The moment to act is now because the credibility of the Government is on the line.

“The handling of the pandemic has already dented people’s trust. We need the Government to tackle Covid effectively, collaboratively, and in a way which recognises and actively counters the disproportionate impact it is having on disadvantaged areas and on the North in particular.

“But the unfortunate reality is that some of their policies – like the failure to fund local test and trace, the chaos over lockdowns, the inadequacy of support for people and companies affected by them – threaten not only to prolong the struggle against Covid, but to exaggerate its already unequal impact.

“And these mistakes have not gone unnoticed. As the pollster Deborah Mattison tells us, northerners disproportionately feel the areas under lockdown are being treated unfairly.

“Across the region, trust is corroding, optimism fading, divisions widening. This weakening of confidence inevitably bleeds into other areas.

“Almost 70 per cent of northerners believe their area gets less resource than others. Over two thirds of them believe the Government will not follow through on its promise of levelling up.

“All of us have a common interest in proving them wrong. We can do that, but it needs the Government to act within a very small window of opportunity. That opportunity is the Comprehensive Spending Review.

“This is the where the government can show that they are putting their money where their mouth is. But the CSR is due to be complete in a matter of weeks. The clock is truly running down on levelling up. The CSR is critical because levelling up will only mean something when it is backed with real investment.”

The Government confirmed this week that it is scrapping a planned multi-year spending review, and instead holding a one-year review at the end of November.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the decision was taken to prioritise the response to Covid-19 and focus on supporting jobs, setting departmental resources and capital budgets for 2021-22, and the devolved administrations' block grants for the same period.

Funding for the NHS and schools will remain multi-year, along with priority infrastructure projects.

The Government had kept an open mind on scrapping the multi-year spending review but has come under pressure from economists in recent months, who pointed out that the uncertainty of the pandemic meant setting longer-term spending targets would prove difficult.