North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

The Tory candidates: what they have promised

Amid the rhetoric surrounding the Conservative Party leadership battle it is not always easy to keep up with which candidates have made which promises. This website now attempts to do so within the confines of its specific interests of devolution and levelling up.

This is not original research by this website, but readers who have not had a chance to read widely in the media reports of the race, which has now been reduced to two runners – Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak – may find it helpful.

For the information presented here, this website is grateful to the ConservativeHome website, which itself acknowledges sourcing from the Public First website which in turn gathered information from a range of media. ConservativeHome covers pledges across the full range of policy, which can be seen on its own site, but we restrict our coverage to our issues of special interest.

On devolution, ConservativeHome notes that both candidates have committed to the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs’ four-point pledge card, as reported on the website two days ago.

Those pledges are: a new Minister for the North, more devolution, a levelling-up ‘formula’ to ensure left-behind areas receive the government funding they need, and two new vocational colleges.

On levelling up, Sunak has additionally pledged support for Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s five-point plan (Chronicle Live 16/07). The five points, as reported here on July 11, are:

  • a commitment to retain the Department for Levelling Up headed by a cabinet-ranking secretary of state;
  • reform of the Treasury Green Book, which evaluates where public investment should be directed and has, says Houchen, continually held back investment in the north;
  • a commitment to work with mayors around the country to seek a furthering and deepening of English devolution;
  • a commitment to full construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail which would improve cross-Pennine transport; and
  • more fiscal [tax and spend] powers for metro mayors, particularly over business rates and economic investment.

Liz Truss has pledged:

  • low tax zones with lower businesses rates and fewer planning restrictions to encourage investment in left-behind areas (The Times 14/07); and
  • to amend the Levelling Up Bill to replace centralised targets with tax cuts and reduced red tape in “opportunity zones” which make it easier and quicker for developers to build on brownfield land in those areas (Daily Telegraph 17/07).