South Tyneside's cash bid a chance for the government to show Levelling Up pledge is 'more than just an empty slogan'
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Separate proposals have been developed for both of the borough’s constituencies – South Shields and Jarrow – which local authority chiefs hope will bring new jobs and further investment by boosting green energy, education and cultural offerings.
Previous bid by South Tyneside for support from the Levelling Up Fund have been turned down, prompting some North East leaders to slam the ‘beauty contest’ for cash which pits them against their neighbours, but it is hoped applications to the second round of payouts, worth a total of £4.8 billion across the UK, will fare better.
Cllr Tracey Dixon, the leader of the council, said: “These proposals seek to extend our innovative renewable energy schemes, support further education, transform our town centre economies, particularly through culture, and nurture the green innovation happening in the borough.
“South Tyneside has enormous potential to be right at the forefront of the green revolution and our ambition and drive means we are we are creating opportunities in the green economy right on our doorstep.
“But we need further support and investment to play to our strengths and ensure our residents can gain full benefit from those opportunities.”
In South Shields, bosses have drawn up a ‘three-part’ proposal for ministers, requesting money to:
*Overhaul the Customs House arts centre and create a new ‘cultural quarter’
*Create a Northern Renewable Energy Centre of Excellence at the Holborn Renewable Energy Network, a green energy scheme to generate heat from flooded abandoned coal mines
*Build new student accommodation offer ahead of a planned relocation by South Tyneside College into the town centre
In Jarrow, a successful bid would see more cash put into the existing Jarrow and Hebburn minewater heating projects, as well as plans to create a “world-class sustainable visitor destination” at Jarrow Hall.
Ministers have been put under pressure over their ‘levelling up’ in recent weeks after it was revealed public spending in the North has fallen behind the England average, despite the flagship policy.
According to IPPR North, a branch of the Institute for Public Policy Research, government expenditure has been largely “business as usual”, despite high-profile pledges to redistribute spending.
Emma Lewell-Buck, South Shields’s MP, said: "These funds will revitalise our economy, enhance education and skills and increase employment.
"It is time the Government proved to us that levelling up is more than just an empty slogan.”
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne added: “Our constituency is often known solely for the famous Jarrow March, and whilst I am so proud of that, I feel it is important that we uplift and celebrate all of our historic assets equally and this funding will allow us to do that more so.
“Regional inequality continues to worsen with the gap in spending between London and the North doubling over recent years.”