Local MPs have slammed the government’s new plans to reduce inequality in the UK, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Local MPs in Enfield have slammed the government’s recently-announced plans to “level up” the UK as doing little to benefit the borough.
The Labour politicians criticised the new Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper and pointed out that Enfield had yet to receive any money from the various funding pots linked to the policy, despite having faced years of cutbacks.
Published last week, the white paper describes the government’s flagship domestic policy as being “about the success of the whole country: realising the potential of every place and every person across the UK”.
Parts of Enfield, particularly in the Edmonton constituency, are among the most deprived in England. Across the borough 27% of households are in poverty after housing costs are taken into account, according to government figures. Despite this, Enfield has yet to benefit from the funding schemes set up by the government as part of its levelling-up agenda.
Edmonton MP Kate Osamor branded the white paper “a damp squib, with little detail about what action the government will take to reduce inequalities and achieve the targets it has set”.
She added: “Unemployment in Edmonton is more than double the national average, and this area is as deserving of funding as any in the country. Yet Enfield in its entirety has received absolutely nothing from the four levelling up-associated funds so far.
“We need serious green investment to create the jobs of the future, for education spending to be increased per pupil to what it was in 2010, and the ending of austerity for local councils.”
Enfield North MP Feryal Clark said the white paper showed that the government had “utter contempt” for the borough.
She added: “The deep socio-economic divides that exist in our borough need to be addressed by action, not meaningless, rehashed, empty policies.
“What we need is a real plan for good jobs, reinvigorated high streets, and improved connectivity with power being rooted in our community.
“For too long Enfield has received a raw deal. It is time for a government that understands the challenges that boroughs like ours face and takes the action needed to support them.”
Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous said many people in Enfield can feel as disconnected from those in power as any other community in the UK, regardless of their geographical proximity to Westminster.
He added: “That needs to change, and levelling up the UK cannot come at the expense of levelling down hardworking communities in London. However, this will not change under the Conservatives, who continue to overpromise and underdeliver.
“Since 2010, consecutive Conservative governments have starved local authorities of sufficient resources and funding to support and enrich our communities in London. Since 2018, central government has cut Enfield Council’s budget by £70.2million, while allocating nothing from the Town Fund, Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund.
“Locally, we have seen nothing but the levelling down of financial support, and today the government is still refusing to give TfL [Transport for London] the funding it needs to recover from the pandemic.”
According to recent analysis by The Guardian, of the £4.7billion allocated under various levelling up funds so far, some of the poorest areas of the country – many of which are in London – are receiving less money than some of the wealthiest areas.
Hackney is set to receive just £0.16 of funding per head, according to the analysis. In contrast, Bromsgrove in Worcestershire will get £148.33 per head.
Concerns have also been raised that some policies could harm the capital, including the decision to scrap a funding formula designed to ensure 80% of government funding for housing supply goes to the least affordable areas.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 2nd February, secretary of state Michael Gove said levelling up was “not about dampening down the success of London or overlooking the needs of disadvantaged communities in London”.
The white paper focuses on twelve “missions” to level up the UK by 2030, including boosting pay, employment and productivity in all parts of the country; narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy between the areas where it is highest and lowest; and ensuring 90% of primary school children in England achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described levelling up as “a vision for the future that will see public spending on R&D [research and development] increased in every part of the country; transport connectivity improving; faster broadband in every community; life expectancies rising; violent crime falling; schools improving; and private sector investment being unleashed”.