At the end of October Rishi Sunak announced the latest budget which included a levelling up element. So the Government was releasing several billion pounds spread across nearly 50 locations of which 85% were in locations where Conservative MPs are based. Understandably last week several Conservative MPs who have not benefited from the levelling up claim asked a very simple question
What progress his Department has made in levelling up all regions of the UK.
The response was not from Rishi Sunak because he was too busy and so his colleague Helen Whatley was obliged to provide an answer which if the answer was a concept was perfectly ok. However given that she is responding to MPs whose constituencies have not received a benefit, the answer seems a bit hollow
Levelling up is this Government’s defining mission; it is a golden thread running through this Budget and spending review. We are creating the right conditions for businesses to grow and giving people the right skills to succeed. We believe that the place where someone grows up should never limit their prospects.
So one of the Conservative MPs who was asking the question was Henry Smith. Now Henry is a Sussex MP and here in Sussex we have received 5 benefits. One was in Hove, one was in Eastbourne, one was in the Seaford / Newhaven area and then there was one in Bognor Regis and one in Littlehampton. So in terms of MPs which we have 16 of in Sussex, Nick Gibb got 2, Caroline Ansell got 1, Maria Caulfield got 1 and Peter Kyle was the only none Conservative MP who got any benefit. However the other 10 Conservatives including Henry Smith did not get anything. So Henry said
My constituency contains Gatwick airport and, by many measures, has been one of the most negatively affected by the covid-19 pandemic. Will my hon. Friend say how levelling up will support my constituents to recover from the pandemic?
and his response from Helen Whatley was
I know my hon. Friend’s Crawley constituency well and I recognise the importance of aviation to livelihoods there. I am sure that he will welcome the extension of the airport and ground operations support scheme that the Chancellor announced to help airports such as Gatwick to recover from covid. We have also provided £180 million in covid loan schemes to support businesses in Crawley and, as he knows, Crawley has already received £21 million through the towns fund.
Which of course referred to substantial sums that have been given to Crawley prior to the levelling up process but clearly it is not levelling up. So what will happen next? perhaps the other 9 Conservative MPs will ask the same question and then Caroline Lucas and Lloyd Russell-Moyle will also ask?