Eight Yorkshire towns and cities to get £2 million a year for levelling up
The refresh to the Government’s Levelling Up agenda will see nine areas in Yorkshire given funding to regenerate highstreets and secure public safety.
Mr Sunak said yesterday that politicians have been too “focused on cities”, but neglected to mention that Doncaster, one of the 55 towns in the announcement, was made a city last year.
“Towns are the place most of us call home and where most of us go to work,” he said, adding: “But politicians have always taken towns for granted and focused on cities.”
“The result is the half-empty high streets, run-down shopping centres and anti-social behaviour that undermine many towns’ prosperity and hold back people’s opportunity – and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.”
The Government’s Long Term Plan for Towns, published yesterday, will look at improving transport, public safety, increasing footfall on highstreets, as well as creating more green spaces and market days across the UK.
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, said: “We know that in our towns the values of hard work and solidarity, common sense and common purpose, endeavour and quiet patriotism have endured across generations.
“But for too long, too many of our great British towns have been overlooked and undervalued.
“This will empower communities in every part of the UK to take back control of their future, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people.
“It will mean more jobs, more opportunities and a brighter future for our towns and the people who live and work in them.”
It comes as one of the first policies announced as part of Mr Sunak’s first party conference since becoming Prime Minister, with Tory MPs and ministers giving speeches and launching new initiatives between Sunday and Wednesday this week.
Ministers yesterday revealed that the nine areas in Yorkshire set to recieve their share of £1.1 billion are Grimsby, Castleford, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Keighley, Dewsbury, Scarborough.
Adam Hawksbee, Deputy Director of the Onward think tank, which has helped shape much of Mr Sunak’s Levelling Up policies, said: “The Government’s long term plan for towns is a serious and welcome step towards levelling up left behind places.
“Newly announced town endowments will provide communities with the long-term funding they need to spend on the things that matter, without having to bid into Whitehall or get stuck in council bureaucracy.
“Onward’s research has shown that the powers communities need to regenerate are often within their reach - what they need are the resources and support to make best use of them.”
Sebastian Payne, Director of Onward, said: “Levelling Up is back. At a crucial political moment when some doubted the Government’s commitment to helping towns, this is a serious and much needed plan for the parts of the country that need it the most.
“Although the £1bn of funds are very welcome, the long term plan for towns goes well beyond that.
“Onward has called for communities to be handed more power from Whitehall, which will be critical if the Conservatives want to win an historic fifth term."
It comes as Jeremy Hunt is set to increase the national living wage to at least £11 an hour from next April later today in a speech at the party’s conference in Manchester.
The Conservatives said the move will benefit two million of the lowest paid, with Mr Hunt also expected to announce that ministers will look again at the benefit sanctions regime in a bid to get the unemployed back into work.
The Government had already set a target for the national living wage to reach two-thirds of median hourly pay by October next year.
The Low Pay Commission estimates the rate required to meet that target should be between £10.90 and £11.43, with a central estimate of £11.16.
Mr Hunt is expected to say: “Today I want to complete another great Conservative reform, the national living wage.
“Since we introduced it, nearly two million people have been lifted from absolute poverty.
“That’s the Conservative way of improving the lives of working people. Boosting pay, cutting tax.
“But today, we go further with another great Conservative invention, the national living wage.
“We promised in our manifesto to raise the national living wage to two-thirds of median income – ending low pay in this country.
“At the moment it is £10.42 an hour and we are waiting for the Low Pay Commission to confirm its recommendation for next year.
“But I confirm today, whatever that recommendation, we will increase it next year to at least £11 an hour.
“A pay rise for over two million workers.
“The wages of the lowest paid over £9,000 a year higher than they were in 2010 – because if you work hard, a Conservative Government will always have your back.”