Devolution and levelling up in Yorkshire will 'return with gusto' after coronavirus, Communities Secretary pledges

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Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has promised the Government remains committed to its “levelling up” agenda to improve life across the country despite the cost of coronavirus.

Speaking at the daily press conference in Downing Street today, Mr Jenrick said devolution would continue and played a key role in rebuilding the economy after the pandemic subsides.

Asked about support for Yorkshire - and devolution specifically - and whether money committed would still flow, Mr Jenrick said: “This Government was elected on a platform of levelling up and uniting the whole country and we have absolutely no intention of stalling those plans.”

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Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Photo: PACommunities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Photo: PA
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Photo: PA

He said places such as Bradford were exactly the kind of places that would be hit hardest by coronavirus and the economic disruption caused.

"That is why we will return with gusto to the levelling up agenda," he said, pointing to devolution deals already signed in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

“We want to do more for North Yorkshire, the Humber and other parts of the north of England as well.”

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"That work will be more important than ever as we begin to rebuild and recover the economy, and move forward with the life of the country."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier said “this is a Government that is going to pursue our agenda of uniting and levelling up across the whole of the UK”.

It comes after Mr Johnson was pushed by Labour’s Mike Amesbury earlier in the day to not return to the “dark days of austerity” and instead help councils through the pandemic.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions he said: “I can certainly tell him that the Government has absolutely no intention of returning to the A-word, which I won’t quote. That is not going to be our approach.”

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Mr Jenrick also pledged to back councils with costs incurred from the pandemic.

“Let me be very clear to local council leaders across the country: we will stand behind them,” he said.

“[We will] ensure that they have the resources that they need to carry out the absolutely critical functions that they are playing in our national response to coronavirus.”

He said he had already been working with metro mayors including Sheffield City Region’s Dan Jarvis on a “coordinated approach” to the pandemic.

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He said: “Coronavirus will not stop our mission to level up, to unite and to unleash the potential of this country.

"The Prime Minister will set out on Sunday our approach to the second phase of this pandemic and as we look ahead to supporting businesses, as they’re able to reopen, my department will lead our work on how our local economies can adapt, evolve, recover and grow.”

He added: “We cannot or will not let this pandemic halt our work to improve connectivity, to provide vital social and cultural infrastructure, and to boost economic growth across the regions. That is how we will begin to rebuild and to recover from this national emergency.”


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