Government 'not taking any backwards step' on levelling up, minister says, but only 10 per cent expect more investment in Yorkshire post-pandemic

The Government is “not taking any backwards step” on the levelling up agenda despite the impact of coronavirus on progress, peers have been told.

Conservative Minister Baroness Barran today rejected suggestions that the pandemic could be used as an excuse to roll back on promises made to the North of England during the 2019 election.

But it comes as only 10 per cent of people living in Yorkshire and the Humber expect to see more investment in local facilities following the coronavirus pandemic and 64 per cent say the quality of community facilities in the region has deteriorated over the last five years, according to research commissioned by creative agency Social.

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The findings from YouGov’s research of more than 2,000 adults from across the UK also raise questions about Northerners’ awareness of and trust in the Government’s levelling up agenda.

Stock photo of Barnsley. Photo: JPI Media

Peers in the House of Lords today debated how the cultural sector could be supported after the damage it had suffered during the pandemic. Baroness Barran said the creative industries were “a global success story, growing up to four times the UK average before the pandemic struck”.

And she said there had been “unprecedented levels of support through the £1.57bn cultural recovery fund, and the £500m film and TV production restart scheme”.

But Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury said that in not supporting an insurance scheme which would allow festivals to go ahead, the Government was “taking a backward step in its bid to level up”.

Baroness Barran, however said: “The Government absolutely does not accept we are taking any backwards step, either in support of the creative industries or in relation to levelling up.”

However the Place Index published by Social, which looks at people’s views and feelings about their local areas, and how they think the pandemic will affect them, revealed a third of people (35 per cent) living across Yorkshire and the Humber said they fear their local community will be left behind other, more affluent, areas as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Some 57 per cent of respondents from the region said their community would be worse off post- pandemic.

Pete Wrathmell, Managing Director of Social’s Leeds office, said: “As a business that’s worked in local communities across the region and nationwide, we recognise and support the ambition to reduce the regional inequalities that persist in Britain. But these findings suggest that more needs to be done to win the confidence of people across Yorkshire and the Humber that levelling up will make a tangible difference to their lives and communities after the pandemic.

“It is vital that communities feel involved in conversations about the future of their areas if levelling up is to mean anything to them.”

Research from Social suggests a North-South divide in confidence levels towards pandemic recovery, with 39 per cent of Northerners feeling they will be left behind in a post-pandemic recovery, in comparison to only 22 per cent of Southerners.

But the Government has repeatedly insisted the North would be at the centre of its plans to build back better after the pandemic, and often points to measures in last month’s Budget.

After last month’s Budget, on a visit to Darlington, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We want to make sure we are showing the kind of government that we want to be which is to level up opportunity across the country.”