CITY REGION mayor Dan Jarvis says it is “bewildering” the Government has yet to spell out the meaning of its “Levelling Up” slogan more than two years after being voted in.
Labour mayor Mr Jarvis hit out at the slow pace of explaining the concept as he and other political leaders discussed investment in the region.
He told a mayoral combined authority meeting on Monday: “I had hoped we would be able to talk about the government’s long-awaited Levelling Up paper.
“A recent survey showed 50 per cent of people don’t know what ‘Levelling Up’ means and 24 per cent have never heard of it.
“I think it’s safe to say many of us here are still very much in the 50 per cent that don’t know what it means but I hope by our next meeting we will be able to bring forward a detailed consideration of the White Paper, what it means for us in South Yorkshire and how we will want to respond.
“Levelling up South Yorkshire is essential — it’s not a ‘nice to have’ — and, two years on from the government’s election, it is bewildering they have still not published a clear, measurable, deliverable plan to do this, particularly when Covid has shone such a spotlight on the inequalities in our country.”
Rother Valley’s Tory MP, Alexander Stafford, hit back, accusing Mr Jarvis of playing politics.
“Levelling Up is the acknowledgement that successive governments — including the last Labour government — failed to tackle the legacy of deindustrialisation, economic underperformance and lack of opportunity for the people of Rotherham,” he said.
“There is now a plan to tackle this and no longer leave behind any region and we are already seeing £11 million awarded to Rother Valley from the Levelling Up Fund.
“The South Yorkshire Mayor may want to play politics with the Levelling Up agenda, but he readily boosts about the £860 million ‘new deal’ for South Yorkshire regeneration, the £570 million worth of transformative investment to transform the region’s transport network, in addition to the various Levelling Up Fund, Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund projects that Rotherham Borough is benefiting from.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities, Housing and Levelling Up said: “Levelling up means empowering local leaders and communities to seize their own destiny; boosting living standards, particularly where they are lower; spreading opportunity and improving public services, particularly where they are weak, and restoring local pride across the UK.
“South Yorkshire has already benefited from over £249 million of funding for infrastructure and regeneration projects that will improve the lives of people across the county.
“In addition, the devolution deal finalised last year with South Yorkshire will unlock £900 million of additional investment funding.
“The Government will publish a White Paper in due course.”