PM un­der pres­sure on ‘lev­el­ling-up’ pledge

Task force of 40 Tory MPs as­sem­bled by think tank to en­sure ‘red wall’ ar­eas re­verse eco­nomic trends

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Lizzy Bur­den

A THINK tank close to the Gov­ern­ment has as­sem­bled a task force of 40 Con­ser­va­tive MPs to put pres­sure on the Prime Min­is­ter to ful­fil his “lev­el­ling up” agenda. On­ward also pub­lished a re­port un­der­lin­ing the po­lit­i­cal importance of im­prov­ing re­gional equal­ity to the Tory party.

It finds that earn­ings in Con­ser­va­tive seats are on av­er­age 5pc lower than in Labour seats and houses are worth a third less, at £62,000.

Of the bot­tom quar­ter of con­stituen­cies with the low­est earn­ings, three more were held by the Con­ser­va­tives than Labour.

Re­vers­ing these trends will be cru­cial if sev­eral MPs on the task force are to re­tain their seats in “red wall” con­stituen­cies – those that turned blue in De­cem­ber’s gen­eral elec­tion af­ter hav­ing backed Labour for decades.

They in­clude Chris Clark­son, of Hey­wood and Mid­dle­ton; De­henna Dav­i­son, of Bishop Auck­land; James Grundy, of Leigh; and Mark Jenk­in­son, of Work­ing­ton.

“The coron­avirus cri­sis has only made the case for lev­el­ling up stronger so we can get the econ­omy mov­ing in ar­eas that are less well off,” Neil O’Brien, MP for Har­bor­ough, said. “Our new task force will be spear­head­ing this vi­tal agenda.” Analysing data from the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics, On­ward also showed that the gap be­tween the cap­i­tal and the rest of the coun­try is widen­ing.

In­come be­fore tax and benefits is now al­most 70pc higher in Lon­don than the rest of the UK, up from about 30pc higher in 1997, while Lon­don’s econ­omy is a quar­ter big­ger than the north of Eng­land’s.

In ad­di­tion, re­gional in­equal­ity is worse in Bri­tain than its in­dus­tri­alised peers. In Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, 12pc of peo­ple live in ar­eas where the av­er­age in­come is 10pc be­low the na­tional av­er­age, com­pared to 35pc in the UK.

To mea­sure its progress on lev­el­ling up, which the 2019 Con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo pledged re­peat­edly, the Gov­ern­ment should use earn­ings and em­ploy­ment rates as key mea­sures be­cause they al­low for the anal­y­sis of smaller ar­eas – such as lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – than pro­duc­tiv­ity or in­come due to how the data are pro­duced and given that they are more timely, the re­port said. The think tank, founded by a for­mer spe­cial ad­viser to Theresa May, also called on the Trea­sury’s labour mar­kets and dis­tri­bu­tional anal­y­sis unit to pro­duce ge­o­graph­i­cal analy­ses of all bud­gets and fis­cal events, break­ing down the im­pact of tax and spend­ing changes on dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Cen­tral, said: “There is po­ten­tially a lot of un­tapped po­ten­tial in parts of our coun­try that have felt left be­hind for a long time.

“Now is the time to re­ally ham­mer for­ward with the lev­el­ling-up agenda.”

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