Johnson: Levelling up is a 'huge undertaking' but will be a 'win-win' for the whole UK
The Prime Minister said the UK 'has a more unbalanced economy' than most other European countries
Boris Johnson has set out his levelling up agenda today in Coventry.
Speaking at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, the Prime Minster said the UK’s economy had been “unbalanced” before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“We need to say from the beginning that, before the pandemic began, the UK had and still has a more unbalanced economy than almost all our immediate competitors in Europe.
“And when I say unbalanced, I mean that for too many people, geography turns out to be destiny.
“It is an outrage that a man in Glasgow or Blackpool has an average of 10 years less on this planet than someone growing up in Hart in Hampshire or in Rutland.
“I don’t know what people do in Rutland to live to prestigious ages, who knows, but they do. There is glaring imbalance.”
Boris Johnson, drawing a number of comparisons between opportunities in nearby British cities, said that the UK was “squandering” the potential of its population.
“No one believes – I don’t believe, you don’t believe – there is a basic difference in the potential of babies born across this country.
“Everybody knows that talent, energy and enthusiasm and flare are evenly spread across the UK.
“It is opportunity that is not, and it is the mission of this Government to unite and level up across the whole of the UK, not just because that is morally right but because if we fail we are simply squandering vast reserves of human capital and we are failing to allow people to fulfil their potential and we are holding our country back.”
Boris Johnson said the project of levelling up was a “huge undertaking” but that the Government did not want to “decapitate the tall poppies”.
“We don’t think that you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts of the country poorer.
“You can’t hope to stimulate growth around the country by actually constraining companies from developing.”
Mr Johnson added that levelling up could only be achieved with “a strong and dynamic, wealth-creating economy”.
“There’s got to be a catalytic role for government and government must provide a strategic lead,” he said.
“But that requires consistency from government, not chopping and changing.”
The Prime Minister said that “basic half-heartedness” of governmental approach had been previously “coupled with an unspoken assumption by policymakers that investment should always follow success”.
“To use a football metaphor, the approach has always been to hang around the goalmouth rather than being the playmaker,” Mr Johnson said.
Boris Johnson has rejected claims the Government’s levelling-up agenda would be to the detriment of London and the South.
“Levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation, it is not robbing Peter to pay Paul, it is not zero sum, it is win-win,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the Government was putting “rings of steel” around towns plagued by county lines drugs gangs as it was the poorest who suffered the most from crime.
The Government was investing £50 million in football pitches, tackling the problems of junk food and investing “colossally” in the National Health Service.
Mr Johnson they were committed to creating the conditions for business confidence, with £4.2 million funding for eight city regions to improve their transport networks.
The Prime Minister said the UK needed to ensure it was offering the best incentives for business to set up domestically.
“This country is not only one of the most imbalanced economies in the developed world, it is also one of the most centralised and those two defects are obviously connected.”
Mr Johnson said the UK was “outstandingly successful” despite “firing on one cylinder”.