For over two years, local government has been stagnating as the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper was repeatedly pushed back, only to be rushed out last week as part of the effort to distract the nation from the chaos in 10 Downing Street.
Despite Conservatives claiming these delays were necessary to ensure their leading policy commitment would deliver for Britain, the final product has less money attached to it than the Government lost to fraud over the pandemic and mostly amounts to a list of previously announced projects and general ambitions with no suggestion as to how they will be delivered.
Crawley’s economy was hit harder by the COVID-19 restrictions than any other. Yet, even taking the White Paper into account public spending in our area will be £82.8m worse off in real terms than when Henry Smith was last re-elected. Two years on we not only have not received a penny in additional support from Government recognising the uniquely hard impact of their restrictions on our community, we now face risk being ‘levelling’ down by the few commitments actually in the White Paper.
Take housing for an example. Currently 80% of housing funding must be spent in areas where housing is least affordable. In scrapping we won’t see a reduction in private developments, but we will see a major reduction in the proportion of units which have to be affordable for local people.
Then there’s transport, where the plan is to moving investment towards city-regions outside of our area. Not only does this offer no hope for resolving issues with congestion on local roads and trains, but any reduction in London’s connectivity with our area will have a dramatic impact upon commuters and the economic health of our town.
The reality is that the Levelling Up White Paper not only fails on its own objectives, but it treats our community with the contempt a party only ever shows when they believe that the voters who live there will support them no matter what they do. For the good of Crawley as a whole, we need to prove them wrong.