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Leading Tory mayor says Starmer hasn’t learned past lessons when the North ‘was taken for granted’ as he pleads ‘do not let Labour leave the region to rot’

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Labour would leave the North to ‘rot’, the Mayor of Teesside warns today.

As the Conservatives announced hundreds of millions of pounds in levelling-up cash for towns across the country, Ben Houchen said Sir Keir Starmer ‘hasn’t learned the lesson’ of the past when ‘for years, the North East was taken for granted and left to rot by the Labour Party’.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner will today brand the Government’s levelling-up agenda a ‘phoney gimmick’ as she pledges to ‘power up every corner of Britain’.

But writing in the Mail today, Lord Houchen says a ‘committed approach to devolution, introduced by Boris (Johnson) and continued by Rishi (Sunak), has been instrumental in turbocharging local growth’ in areas that had been neglected by Labour for decades.

Lord Houchen, the only Tory mayor to hold on to power in last month’s local elections, writes: ‘Levelling up isn’t just about the cash, though this has been a critical part of this Government’s commitment to our area. It is also about the influence we now have over government policy which for years, Westminster has had a monopoly.

Ben Houchen said Sir Keir Starmer 'hasn't learned the lesson' of the past when 'for years, the North East was taken for granted and left to rot by the Labour Party'

Ben Houchen said Sir Keir Starmer ‘hasn’t learned the lesson’ of the past when ‘for years, the North East was taken for granted and left to rot by the Labour Party’

‘But Labour hasn’t learnt its lesson. They still operate on a centralised model where everything is to be dictated from their head office.’

His comments come as ministers unveil a new package of funding to help regenerate communities across the country.

Michael Gove today publishes a list of 30 towns which will each receive £20 million for local projects if the Conservatives win the next election. The list is likely to provoke controversy as 70 per cent of the towns listed in England and Wales are in constituencies held by the Conservatives at the last election.

The list includes communities in a string of constituencies where the Tories are desperate to hold on, such as Redditch, Corby, Bognor Regis and Ilkeston, which was the first place visited by Mr Sunak after calling the snap election.

It also includes the north Derbyshire town of Dronfield, in the constituency of levelling up minister Lee Rowley, and Newtown, in the Welsh constituency of Mr Sunak’s close parliamentary aide Craig Williams.

Unlike most previous rounds of levelling-up funding, the successful towns have been decided without having to submit bids setting out how they would use the cash.

Sources said the towns had been chosen on the basis of factors such as life expectancy and workforce productivity. But the preponderance of Tory winners is likely to fuel accusations of US-style pork barrel politics.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner will today brand the Government's levelling-up agenda a 'phoney gimmick' as she pledges to 'power up every corner of Britain'

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner will today brand the Government’s levelling-up agenda a ‘phoney gimmick’ as she pledges to ‘power up every corner of Britain’

Ms Rayner last night accused ministers of ‘yet another reckless unfunded spending commitment, sure to be broken as quickly as it was made’. But Tory sources said the £600 million cost could be funded from the proceeds of a crackdown on tax avoidance.

The Prime Minister said the cash injection would ‘transform’ communities which are the ‘beating heart of our country… reviving their high streets, growing their local economies and making people feel proud of the place they call home’.

Mr Sunak said Labour’s record in government ‘shows they don’t care about towns – neglecting their needs, allowing them to decline and focusing instead on cities’.

Labour has said that the funding ring-fenced by the Tories to pay for the investment into towns is the same funding that is being used for their pensions announcement and National Service plan.

Ms Rayner added: ‘Everywhere you look, communities up and down the country are feeling the impact of 14 years of Tory decline: boarded-up shops, soaring bills and a widening wage gap with London.

‘Labour will turn the page on the Conservatives’ chaos by boosting growth in every corner of the country, putting more money in people’s pockets, and giving them control over what matters.’



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