Levelling up plans do not go far enough for West Yorkshire

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has welcomed the commitment to levelling up in today’s Government White Paper, but expressed frustration that the plans do not go far enough to truly make a difference to the lives of people in our region.

Mayor says Government levelling up plans do not go far enough for West Yorkshire

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has welcomed the commitment to levelling up in today’s Government White Paper, but expressed frustration that the plans do not go far enough to truly make a difference to the lives of people in our region.

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, said:

“It’s positive that the Government recognises the urgent need to level up across the nation but the money it promises is nowhere near enough. The long-term ambitions of the strategy are welcome, but we need to see action and delivery now, not just by 2030.

There’s lots of ambition, lots of hope, but Mayors and local leaders need enough funding, and the tools to do the job to improve the lives and livelihoods of people in our region.

Our talent and potential can match anywhere in the country, but the ambitions of today’s White Paper need to be backed up by further commitments from the Treasury.

The Government have made countless promises over the last decade to strengthen regional economies. We’ve had the Northern Powerhouse, we’ve had local industrial strategies, all of which have asked local areas to chop and change their priorities.

The test for this White Paper will be whether they deliver on their promises to empower local leaders, simplify funding, and give us the freedoms and flexibilities we need to deliver for our communities.”

To truly level up, West Yorkshire needs:

  • Funding for a modern public transport system including an effective, London-style bus network that properly connects communities with jobs and opportunities. We have submitted a £1bn bid to achieve our ambitions for bus services.
  • Long-term funding to support jobs growth, regeneration and new infrastructure, to give the region certainty and security.
  • The end of ‘beauty contests’ where regions are pitched against each other to bid in competition for small amounts of short-term funding
  • A foundation of strong, well-funded public services
  • More investment in innovation and the green economy
  • More pounds in people’s pockets and support to boost people’s incomes.

A modern transport system

“A modern, integrated public transport system is absolutely key to levelling up West Yorkshire and the North. And this White Paper contains ambitions for the country’s local public transport to be much closer to London standards by 2030.

But the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan does not match that ambition and does not meet our region’s needs. It doesn’t deliver HS2 to Leeds and Northern Powerhouse Rail with new station in Bradford.

The White Paper rightly identifies the potential of transport-led regeneration, but government’s plan denies West Yorkshire the opportunity to inject billions of pounds into our economy through this route."

The Mayor of West Yorkshire added:

"We have bold and ambitious plans for our bus services. We want a London style system with a comprehensive network, capped fares and a tap in, tap out system. But government Covid funding for buses ends next month, and without any extension, there will only be enough money to prop up existing services.

Bus operators in our region are already facing major pressures and being forced to withdraw routes in areas that government really want to level up, such as Wakefield.

We’re doing what we can as a Mayoral Combined Authority, stepping in to protect routes, but we need more support from Government.

To achieve a London standard service, we estimate we need an investment of £1bn over five years, but it’s unlikely government are going to support our ambitions."

Less bureaucracy

“The Government says it wants to simplify and streamline the way it distributes funding to Mayors and local leaders. This is welcome. The constant competitive bidding pots and beauty contests for small amounts of time limited money restricts our long-term planning. But we’ve heard words like this before, and the test will be in the delivery of the commitment.

“We’ve had confirmation that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will finally be delivered, but we expect to get less from this than the EU funds it replaces. So, whilst the flexibilities and freedoms that this funding promises to deliver are welcome, fewer resources will limit what we’re able to achieve.

“The one allocation we have received today is £22m from the Brownfield Land Fund. Sadly, this comes with the same red tape, short termism and restrictions as we had before - and this is from Michael Gove’s own department.

A ‘Whole Government’ approach to levelling up

“I do believe that Michael Gove is genuinely committed to levelling up our nation, but we need a proper commitment from every minister in this Government, including the Chancellor and the Treasury. It’s not enough to just have a single champion in the Cabinet, we need a ‘Whole Government’ approach.

“I want to work with Government to further strengthen our devolution deal and deliver on our shared ambitions for our communities.

Tracy Brabin added:

“It’s significant that Bradford has launched its bid to be 2025 City of Culture today. Culture can be a powerful tool to level up communities through regeneration, jobs and skills training.

“This highlights the amazing talent and rich potential we have here in West Yorkshire’s towns and cities. This is truly levelling up in action and Bradford would be a worthy winner of the title.”

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