Lord Sentamu urges govt’s Levelling Up project to resolve income inequality

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The former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, has urged the House of Lords to adopt the government’s Levelling Up project to ease the income disparities between regions in Britain.

On 7 February 2022, Lord Sentamu told the House he hoped to see three particular strategies adopted by the government: creating a Yorkshire regional government, making Levelling Up a priority for the state as had been the NHS following the Second World War, and easing income disparities between the North and South of England. See his full statement below.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had placed “levelling up” at the heart of the Conservatives’ election manifesto in 2019. Last week the Levelling Up Secretary Michal Gove set forth the government’s plans to implement the strategy. Mr. Gove told the BBC Levelling Up would “shift both money and power into the hands of working people” and ensure funding was spent effectively on local priorities.

A key element of the strategy is a plan to create regional mayors like those that exist for Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the Tees Valley. Mr. Gove said every part of England would have access to “London-style” powers and a mayor.  

Mr Gove’s plans would bring all existing initiatives together into 12 “national missions” and set up a system for measuring progress. Derelict urban sites in 20 towns and cities – starting with Sheffield and Wolverhampton – would be targeted for redevelopment intended to create more high-quality jobs.

The Labour Party has argued there is no new funding for programs such as eliminating illiteracy or providing access to high speed internet, or improving public transport. Mr. Gove responded the Levelling Up plan was focused on eliminating waste and using current resources more efficiently and effectively.

Lord Sentamu’s speech: (Citation: HL Deb, 7 February 2022, c1335)

My Lords, I first declare an interest: I used to be the convenor of One Yorkshire. At the last general election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats committed themselves to bringing in One Yorkshire, if elected. The Conservatives were slightly equivocal. In the light of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up saying that we need mayors of the type that we have in London, and, given that the need that quickly comes up is to have one for the whole of Yorkshire because of its economy, people and geography, will the Minister give the House his further thoughts on One Yorkshire, because it is still committed to that dream and ideal?

Secondly, the Prime Minister has told us that the pandemic has been the biggest challenge we have faced since the Second World War. At the end of the war, there was a huge social impact on the people of the United Kingdom. Most noble Lords will remember that it was the Beveridge report that began the work of transforming this great nation. Beveridge said there was want, caused by poverty; ignorance, caused by the lack of education; squalor, caused by poor housing; idleness, caused by a lack of jobs or inability to gain employment; and disease, caused by inadequate healthcare provision, which resulted in the National Health Service and social welfare. I read the whole report. What are the giants that the Minister thinks need to be slain so that we can get to where we ended up at the end of the Second World War, when the Beveridge report led to real transformation?

Finally, the greatest thing that has been bedevilling a lot of people who feel left behind is the great gulf of income inequality, but I did not hear or read it—maybe I have missed it, but I did not see it in the report. Will the Government continue to pursue the whole question of income inequality? If that is not dealt with, I am afraid you may level up some people, but you will leave a lot in poverty. Maybe I could give the Government the motto of Barnsley to become the motto for levelling up. It is in Latin, but I will give noble Lords the translation in English: spectemur agendo—let us be judged by our actions. That is what we are looking for in levelling up, not big words.