Levelling up is at the heart of the new Conservative government, Levelling Up Minister and Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison has said in an interview with the Northern Echo’s Chris Lloyd.
‘It is still absolutely crucial,’ said Ms Davison. ‘There has been this odd narrative that that isn’t the case. There is absolutely no way that as someone who cares about levelling up so much [as I do] would have taken this job if I didn’t think it was going to be heavily prioritised under a Liz Truss government.’
The Minister for Levelling Up, who has been in post since September 7, added: ‘The naysayers need to listen to what’s actually being said.’
She told the Northern Echo that to her levelling up means a ‘fully holistic package’ which takes in living standards, transport, health inequalities and educational outcomes, but begins with Ms Truss’s number one priority:
‘Right now, the best way we can do all that is by having a focus on growth because if the economy isn’t growing, if the pie isn’t getting bigger, then everyone is going to suffer.’
She also pointed out – as did this website on October 5 – that in her party conference speech the Prime Minister talked of ‘levelling up in a Conservative way.’ That presumably refers back to the prioritising of economic growth, a national mission rather than a specifically regional one.
In her Northern Echo interview Ms Davison also mentioned the possible but far from certain expanded North East devolution deal uniting the six councils of Northumberland and Tyne & Wear plus perhaps County Durham – unless it decides to seek a go-it-alone county deal.
The deal, which would bring new powers and responsibilities to the North East councils, as well as £3bn over 30 years, has been under discussion for months.
‘It’s going to be really tough decision. I’m still open to persuasion’, said Ms Davison of the County Durham dimension.
‘Ultimately, I’m in favour of devolution. I think empowering local leadership is absolutely the right way to get on because local leaders know better what is right for their area than anyone sitting in Whitehall.’