Government spending overall is planned to be £1,182bn in 2022-23. The levelling up expenditure announced last week was just £2.1bn – less than 0.2% of that (Editorial, 18 January). It is the way that the other 99.8% is spent that has created the gross regional imbalance that so disfigures Britain’s economy. Mainstream funding has depressed the north – and other areas outside London, such as the West Country – and it is that mainstream funding that needs to be rebalanced if levelling up is ever to become real.
A good place to start would be with bus services, on which the government is overseeing terminal decline outside London just when the cost of living and climate crises demand a “London solution” (ie public control and ownership) for the whole country. And judicious spending could solve the perpetual chaos on the north’s railways, so frequently reported but rarely with solutions offered.
• I spent 30 years on various local councils, including eight years on a police authority. Over that period we seemed to spend a great deal of time and, in usually appointing consultants, a great deal of money in bidding for extra cash from central government. Rarely were we successful.
The present, back-of-a-fag-packet idea of levelling up is another example of Westminster politicians thinking they know best, tossing the odd bone from the banqueting table for the dogs below to scrap over.
Like Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, where the process has already begun, England needs a proper devolving of real power over taxation and decision-making to its regions, coupled with the establishment of regional assemblies. A “national parliament” in Westminster can deal with matters such as foreign affairs, defence, immigration, currency etc. Welcome to a federal UK.
North Hykeham, Lincolnshire
• One of the benefits of lockdown was the sudden global access via Zoom to London-based events and discussions from which we residents of the north of England are usually excluded. Sadly, now that the Covid threat has “passed”, this manifestation of levelling up has been unequalled down.
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
• Tempting though it is to pore over the list of projects that have succeeded in securing levelling up funds, spotting real or perceived injustices in the process and outcomes, this is just a sideshow. Those who are serious about addressing the decline of communities should challenge the determined policy of undermining local authorities that has led to central government funding of local services being reduced by about 40% over the past dozen years.
Photogenic projects providing opportunities for ministers to cut ribbons or affix plaques are poor substitutes for the cuts that have closed libraries, mothballed leisure centres, left potholes unfilled and reduced care for frail and vulnerable people.