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The government's levelling up plan offers little hope to the North East

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Last week we finally got to understand what the government really means by levelling up. Turns out, it’s not a lot.

The levelling up white paper was the Prime Minister’s chance to turn his catchphrase into action; the chance to show the communities of the North East that he is serious about rebalancing the inequality that divides our poorer North and the richer South.

At first glance the plan is full of pound signs, making it very easy to believe Michael Gove and think the document hails a new era for the North.  

Unfortunately it doesn’t. All the government has done is add fancy words and graphics to pre-existing initiatives and funds. Initiatives and funds which we know have left many of our local authorities worse off than they were under the European Regional Development Fund.

And there is no mention of improving the quality of work. Something we know is instrumental to improving the day to day lives of those living in the region.

Insecure work and low pay are rife across the North East.

For too many families hard work no longer pays. With the country facing a cost-of-living crisis, working families need action now to improve jobs and boost pay packets, especially after more than a decade of lost pay.

Without a plan to deliver decent work, millions will continue to struggle, on low wages, and with poor health and prospects. And without more money in their pockets, very little will actually improve for the majority of Northerners.

Quite simply, if we don’t level up at work, we won’t level up the country.

And it’s clear that this is what matters to the public too.

Recent polling published by the TUC found the British public’s number one priority for levelling up is more and better jobs.

The white paper should have announced a plan to get real wages rising; starting with a proper pay rise for all our key workers and the introduction of fair pay deals for low-paid industries.

It should have delivered the long-awaited employment bill to ban zero hours contracts, as well as new, meaningful investment in skills and good green jobs of the future.

And it should have announced levels of funding capable of rebuilding our local economies.

The levelling up white paper is not ground breaking and it offers little hope to the communities left behind. Frustratingly, the people of the North East will see little change through the implementation of the paper as it stands.

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