Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery dismisses government's Levelling Up process as 'beauty contest'

The leader of Wakefield Council has dismissed the government's Levelling Up agenda as a "beauty contest".

A white paper detailing how ministers intend to improve equality across the UK over the next eight years was published on Wednesday.

Among the aims are to increase the number of first-time buyers, offer 5G broadband to the majority of households and have more regional mayors with devolved powers.

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But the plans have drawn criticism from northern leaders, who say the government's plans go nowhere near reversing the impact of austerity.

Councillor Denise Jeffery

In Wakefield, the government's aspiration to bring public transport in the shires up to London standards have been given short shrift, given the huge cuts to local bus and rail services announced over the last month.

Responding to the white paper on Thursday, council leader Denise Jeffery said: "Too many people are unable to access work, training and other opportunities within their own district due to issues with our local rail and bus networks.

"You can get from London to Wakefield quicker than you can get from one end of the district to the other.

"And if we have to fight for a basic bus service, what will we have to do to get a modern integrated transport system?"

Wakefield is one of the places to have benefited from Levelling Up funding, but Coun Jeffery said the process was flawed. Picture courtesy of Netomnia.

Wakefield and Castleford are both benefiting from large pots of money, after successful bids to the government's Levelling Up fund last year.

However, Coun Jeffery said that system was deeply flawed.

She added: “We need real core funding that can truly transform our district and not just a beauty contest against other places for the most attractive bid.

“We need this government to move away from a culture of competitive bidding for pots of money and give local areas like our district the core funding, based on need, that it rightly deserves – to make real long-term prosperity for our residents."

Local Democracy Reporting Service