Levelling Up – The “oven ready” cake…

Slamming on the brakes on the Local Plan…
20th January 2023
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Levelling Up – The “oven ready” cake…

One of the central promises of the December 2019 Tory manifesto – yes, the one that delivered Boris Johnson to power! – was to introduce ‘Levelling Up’.

Now, Levelling Up was a new name for an old concept, but with a little PR fairy dust sprinkled over it, they tried to make it sexy and vote winning. The Tories basically have all the seats in the South that they can possible ever win, and to win an overall majority they need to win seats north of Oxfordshire.

They tapped into the popularity of Brexit rhetoric (Remember £350m for the NHS? Taking back control?) with an equally simple message about ‘Levelling Up”. All the millions that we no longer give away to developing economies such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands, we will now spend on Midlands and Northern communities. They’d stop just short of gold-plated paving stones for Bolsover (who would have ever thought the Beast of Bolsover would EVER lose his safe seat to a Tory?)

The election campaigning worked, the Tories won their majority, and true to their word they set about delivering the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. Pots of money were prepared by a chap named Rishi Sunak (Remember him from hits such as: ‘Furlough’, and ‘Eat out to help out’)

Councils could then bid for these pots of money to deliver infrastructure (make a note of this, it becomes important later). Things like a new swimming pool and leisure centre in Halifax that Calderdale Council received £12.2 million for (the list carries on).

Fast-forward and the pandemic arrived, Putin launches an illegal war, triggering an energy crisis, that then spirals into a cost-of-living crisis, which is fuelled further by one of the highest levels of inflation in the G7.

So, with inflation skyrocketing, these pots of money prepared by that nice chap Rishi suddenly weren’t big enough… the leisure complex in Halifax saw the cost rising by £4 million to over £16 million in a very short space of time.

The Treasury then said that the cupboard is bare and there is no more money to top up the pots. This has led to £500 million (yes, half a £billion) being lost from projects so far, with projects are being frozen or shelved as there is no money to make up the shortfall between the original Levelling Up grant and the delivery cost.

“Levelling Up” is basically an “oven ready” cake where the oven was opened too early… it fell flat and flopped. But all is not lost, whilst the Government can rescue it – it will need some icing to convince Mary Berry not to send them out of the tent at the next election.

The icing does exist, though. It is called S106 and CiL, and it can easily pay for ALL the shortfalls (and more), but you need to have an ambitious programme of housebuilding to generate the money.

So, Rishy if you read this, stop this nonsense about scrapping housing targets and the sentimentality over the Green Belt.

We’ll happily “Build out to help out”!

Have a great weekend!

Henry