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Tories accused of costing English regions £1bn with ‘broken’ levelling-up pledge

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (Peter Byrne/PA)
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Conservatives have been accused of breaking a levelling-up manifesto promise, costing English regions more than £1 billion by 2025.

Labour claims that the North, West Midlands and the South West of England are being worst hit by what it describes as a “broken” Tory pledge to at least match previous development funding targeted at regions most in need.

But the Government has hit back strongly against the analysis, dismissing it as “complete nonsense”.

In its 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged to “at a minimum match the size” of EU Structural Funds with its replacement scheme, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

But Labour’s analysis suggests the UKSPF is delivering £371 million per year less on average for English regions.

The North West is losing the most, at £206 million, while the South West will be poorer to the tune of £164 million, it said.

The party added that the South East and East of England are better off, but still suffering losses of £52 million and £53 million, respectively.

To reach the £1 billion figure, Labour calculated the amount to be delivered through the new UKSPF from 2022-23 to 2024-25, and compared this to average spending through the EU Structural Funds over a three-year period, adjusting for inflation throughout.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, said: “The Tories have broken their promise to level up. Not only is England losing over £1 billion of much-needed investment, but the biggest cuts will fall on the parts of the country that can least afford it.

“People urgently need money back in their pockets, and our communities need investment to bring back good jobs that have been lost over decades.”

However the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) insisted the UKSPF is matching EU funding.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “These claims are complete nonsense. Not only does the UK Shared Prosperity Fund match EU funding, it gives local people control of how UK money is spent, removes unnecessary bureaucracy and enables local communities to invest in the priorities that matter to them.

“The Government has set out a long-term plan for the country to spread opportunity and bring real difference to people’s lives.”