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City MP: Levelling Up ‘postcode lottery’ won’t help our city

City MP Stephen Morgan has branded the Levelling Up Fund a ‘postcode lottery’ after the Chancellor refused to give the south of the city a single penny of government money in yesterday’s Budget.

The north of the city, represented by Conservative Minister Penny Mordaunt, received £20m for several projects, including an urban park, upgrades to Hilsea Lido and a new cruise terminal.

Mr Morgan supported the City Council’s bid for a number of projects across the whole city, including funding a step change in leisure provision and a new cultural hub in the Portsmouth South constituency. He lobbied for all proposals for the whole of the city recognising the benefits it would bring communities across Portsmouth. However, proposals for the south of the city received a penny from the Chancellor. Gosport, which the government identified as a ‘priority 1 area’ for levelling up, also got nothing.

Worse still, many projects that would have genuinely benefited the city had to be excluded from bids altogether, because of the fund’s narrow criteria.

This includes the long-overdue regeneration of the city centre, the rejuvenation of Portsmouth Harbour’s transport hub to improve access to the Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quay, and improving pedestrian access between Fratton station and the football stadium. The MP has previously lobbied the Chancellor separately about these matters.

Ministers required projects to be ‘shovel ready’ and able to demonstrate that investment will begin delivery on the ground in this financial year, with all funding being spent by March 2024.

The City MP wrote to the Chancellor in July to raise concerns about the narrow scope of the fund in July, suggesting that it was ‘likely to stifle the very projects the fund should be investing in’.

He also said that the ‘mad rush’ for projects to be completed by 2024 raised concerns that the government is “administering the fund for short term political gain, as opposed to taking a long-term, constructive approach – the absence of which has arguably created the need for a levelling up agenda in the first place.”

The lack of cash for the south of the city is particularly puzzling, given that recent research indicates that Portsmouth South was officially in need of ‘levelling up’. Consultants ranked 573 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales based on key indicators of wealth, health and deprivations, with Portsmouth coming in at 160.

The constituency was shown to be 30% higher than the England and Wales average on both crime and deprivation and ranked in the bottom 20 constituencies on health, based on the number of GPs and the average life expectancy for the area.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“It’s now clear the government’s approach to Levelling Up is a postcode lottery based only on their political ambitions, not a genuine desire to support communities.

“I have long-supported improvements to the north of the city, including the new John Jenkins stadium, but to leave the south without a penny fails to address the major inequalities between our areas.

“Ministers must take a long-term approach to supporting prosperity across the whole of Portsmouth. I will continue to work with the Council on the next round of bids, and lobby government to put opportunity and prosperity on the doorsteps of everyone in our city.”