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‘Big on rhetoric, little on delivery’ – Portsmouth MP sets out five key tests for Levelling Up as city faces over £20m of lost funding

Stephen Morgan MP has backed five tests set by Labour which the Government’s Levelling Up plan must meet in order to deliver on the promises of the 2019 election.

Talking about why these tests are important the Portsmouth MP pointed to new research from Labour which has revealed that areas in virtually every area of England (95%) has received less in funding on average since 2018 than they received from regional development funds, such as the Towns Fund.

The research found that in England 144 local authority areas were still worse off by approximately £50 million on average after receiving Levelling Up funding.

In Portsmouth, local Settlement Funding has reduced in real terms by £45.4m since 2018, while successful bids through the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund only totalled £21.6m, showing a £23.8m real-terms loss for the area since the Government’s levelling up agenda was announced.

Labour has said the Government must meet the ambitions people have for our own communities, including:

  1. Good jobs in our home towns, so young people have choices and chances and don’t have to get out to get on.
  2. Our high streets are thriving because the local economy is thriving, with good local businesses and money in people’s pockets – not just papering over the cracks.
  3. Our towns and villages are better connected to jobs, opportunities, our family and our friends through good transport, digital infrastructure and affordable housing that we have too often missed out on.
  4. We get the power to take local decisions for ourselves – ending the system where we have to go cap in hand to Westminster to do things we know will work for us.
  5. Our town centres are safe and welcoming instead of plagued by anti-social behaviour, with criminals being let off and victims let down.”

The city MP has also accused the government of having no real plan to deliver on its ambitious promises to drive up school standards and give young people and adults access to the skills they need, as well as pointing to the government’s record over the last 11 years.

Funding for schools serving the least advantaged communities fell between 2017 and 2021 while increasing in the most advantaged areas, and the IFS has previously described the government’s approach to school funding as a threat to levelling-up.

Meanwhile, the number of secondary school teachers has declined by 8,913, with teacher vacancies across all schools more than doubling since 2010.

200,000 primary age children were also growing up in areas with not a single primary school rated good or outstanding.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“While the Government is distracted cleaning up the Prime Minister’s scandals, they aren’t governing, and they aren’t delivering for Portsmouth. Ministers have failed to provide what is needed to address the chronic issues our city faces through their Levelling Up Fund. A few pots of money to scrap over won’t cut it.

“With these tests, we will see if the Government really intends to match the ambition we have for our communities with the power and resources we are owed.

“Government has had 11 years to drive up school standards across the country and these Education Investment Areas, which Portsmouth has been included in, are merely a recycling of the Opportunity Areas programme which has failed to deliver consistent improvements across schools. Plenty on rhetoric, little on delivery.

“We need to change the settlement of our country back in favour of those who built it. That means growing our economy, and ensuring jobs and opportunities are spread fairly across the country so that young people in our city don’t have to get out to get on.”

As well as working alongside the city council, backing its Levelling Up Fund bids, questioning Ministers, and lobbying the Chancellor directly over investment in the constituency, the Portsmouth MP has vowed to continue to fight In Parliament for what the area deserves. He is meeting with officials soon over submission of further proposals to Government.