‘Smoke and mirrors’ – South Tyneside MPs slam the government’s latest levelling up plan

The government’s flagship ‘levelling up’ plan has been branded a ‘PR exercise’ by South Tyneside’s MPs.

Ministers have pinned their hopes on a set of ambitious new policies they hope will rebalance the UK economy away from London and take the focus away from claims of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

Plans to install mayors, tackle education "cold spots" and crack down on rogue landlords are among the most eye-catching announcements.

But a lack of detail on how to make good on the document’s promises has left the borough’s MPs feeling cold.

South Shields Town Hall.

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“It’s just full of words and nice-sounding things - the reality is there’s no new money,” said South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

“There’s no nuts and bolts on how they’re going to deliver and the bulk of problems are of their own making anyway.

“It’s smoke and mirrors.

Emma Lewell-Buck. Picture by FRANK REID

“It’s a massive document, nearly 300 pages long, and it says nothing.

“It’s just a PR exercise.”

As well as a raft of new policies formally unveiled in an official ‘white paper’, the government has also set itself ‘12 missions’ to measure its progress, including boosting pay, extending superfast broadband coverage and improving public transport.

But Jarrow MP Kate Osborne insisted the “devil in the detail” of the latest announcement.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Minister for Levelling Up Michael Gove is interviewed for a news broadcast near the Houses of Parliament on February 02, 2022 in London, England. The long-awaited Conservative plan to close the gap between rich and poor area of the country are to be unveiled today. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Writing on social media, she said: “If the government’s plan to ‘level up’ in our communities is sincere, then this announcement must come with a lot more investment across all sectors.

“The North East has been left behind for years by consecutive governments, real ambition to make real change is needed.”

The prospect of a mayor for the whole of the North East is also back on the table, after Sunderland and other authorities walked away from a previous deal, leaving the North of Tyne Combined Authority to go it alone.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.

“This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”

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