British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled “transformational funding” of around GBP 2.1 billion for 100 projects which he says will help towards the Conservative Party government’s agenda to “level up” all parts of the United Kingdom.
In what is seen as an effort to start building some momentum for the Tories in time for the next general election expected in 2024, Prime Minister Sunak said the major government investment will benefit millions of people across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and spread opportunity to historically overlooked areas – with GBP 672 million earmarked to develop better transport links, GBP 821 million to kick-start community regeneration, and GBP 594 million to restore local heritage sites.
A total of 111 areas have been awarded funding from the second of the UK government’s “flagship Levelling Up Fund”, aimed at creating new jobs and driving economic growth.
“Through greater investment in local areas, we can grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere,” said Mr Sunak.
“That’s why we are backing more than 100 projects with new transformational funding to level up local communities across the United Kingdom. By reaching even more parts of the country than before, we will build a future of optimism and pride in people’s lives and the places they call home,” he said.
The projects backed by the British Indian leader include the Eden Project North visitor attraction in Morecambe, a new AI campus in Blackpool, a new rail link in Cornwall, and a major regeneration scheme in Gateshead.
Rishi Sunak’s own constituency of Richmond, in North Yorkshire, will get GBP 19 million to develop the Catterick Garrison town centre, create new routes for walking and cycling, a new town square, and a new community facility that will host new businesses and a community kitchen.
Downing Street said the funding will drive forward Mr Sunak’s “priority to grow the economy by levelling up and provide the foundations for building a better future in communities across the UK”. It also confirmed that there will be a further round of the Levelling Up Fund, for regions to bid for more such funding.
“We are firing the starting gun on more than a hundred transformational projects in every corner of the UK that will revitalise communities that have historically been overlooked but are bursting with potential,” said Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.
“This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride. We are delivering on the people’s priorities, levelling up across the UK to ensure that no matter where you are from, you can go as far as your talents will take you,” he said.
The Cabinet minister also hit back at Opposition Labour Party claims that London and the south-east of England had been favoured over the northern parts of the country as “simply untrue”.
“It’s overwhelmingly the case that the areas that benefit the most are the north-west, the north-east and the east Midlands,” claimed Mr Gove.
Levelling up was a phrase coined by former prime minister Boris Johnson during the 2019 general election campaign as symbolic of the Tory government’s commitment to close the gap between rich and poor parts of the UK by improving services such as education, broadband and transport.
With the Tories trailing behind Labour in the opinion polls amid soaring inflation and widespread public sector discontent, Mr Sunak is keen to revive the levelling up agenda and make it his own in time for when he is expected to lead the party in the next general election.
Opposition Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, branded the scheme a “Hunger Games style contest” which was beset by delays and chaos.
“It is time to end this Hunger Games style contest where communities are pitted against one another and Whitehall ministers pick winners and losers,” the Indian-origin Labour MP said.
“The Levelling Up Fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism. It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities, which has decimated vital local services like childcare, buses and social care,” she said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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