Boris Johnson offered “skeleton” plans to level up the nation where he proposed greater regional devolution in a speech billed as a major bid to define his vision for the UK.
The Prime Minister said county leaders could possibly get fresh powers and reiterated plans for investment on infrastructure, education and regeneration, but offered few new details for his great ambition.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- The Prime Minister promised that boosting the North will not be to the detriment of the South, as he tried to keep traditional Tory voters onside while courting former Labour supporters in the North and Midlands.
- One new proposal in the speech at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry on Thursday was to “rewrite the rule book” to take a “more flexible approach to devolution” in England.
- He said local leaders in towns should be “given the tools to make things happen for their communities”.
- Mr Johnson described his levelling-up vision as an attempt to fix the UK’s “unbalanced economy”, which he said means “for too many people geography turns out to be destiny”.
- He reiterated commitments to rolling out gigabit broadband, investing in rail and roads, giving the guarantee of “great education” to all children, and boosting funding for science and technology and tackling crime.
What Boris Johnson said about levelling up
Mr Johnson said: “We must take a more flexible approach to devolution in England.
“We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties and there is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we’ve devolved to city leaders.”
But he cautioned “we must get the right local leadership” so there cannot be a “one size fits all template”, as he criticised the “loony left”.
“One possibility is a directly elected mayor for individual counties. And if you can think of a better title than mayor for somebody who represents a county then please send me an email,” he added.
The Prime Minister was seeking to ease the jitters of some Conservative MPs by promising his agenda would not mean “levelling down” wealthier areas, in the wake of the loss of the former safe seat of Chesham and Amersham in last month’s by-election.
Having secured his place in No 10 by winning over traditional Labour voters to make massive gains for the Conservatives in the north of England and the Midlands, Mr Johnson argued “greater regional prosperity means more customers and more business for our national metropolis”.
He said: “Levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation, it’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s not zero sum – it’s win-win for the whole United Kingdom.”
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