cars parked on the side of the road during daytime
Photo by Dan Senior on Unsplash

Since the 2019 General Election, the Prime Minister has made ‘Levelling Up’ his flagship policy. While there has been a great deal said about the need for levelling up across the UK, we have seen little action happen over the last few years.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has further reinforced the need for levelling up. Across the UK, inequalities were revealed in all areas of society. Now with a cost of living crisis upon us, urgent action is required to help make sure millions more people don’t fall into poverty.

The Queen’s Speech on May 10th marks an opportunity for the Government to begin matching words with actions. As the Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, I want to see a plan to help communities across the UK – rather than further empty rhetoric and broken promises. As a Labour & Co-operative MP, I know the co-operative movement can be at the heart of providing solutions to levelling up. Co-operation enables communities to own and run businesses and services in their local area – putting power directly in their hands. We have seen the benefits of this from new community energy projects right through to co-operatively run services in Preston. Empowering local people and building community power is at the heart of the Labour’s approach to levelling up. The Shadow Levelling Up team has worked with people from across the Labour and Co-operative movements to develop five tests for the White Paper which would deliver meaningful levelling up and empower people.

First, we want to see good jobs created in hometowns, so that people no longer need to leave their communities to get on in life. As co-operators, we know co-operative business models can empower members and workers through fairer forms of ownership which strive to achieve common good. Labour is committed to supporting new co-operative owned businesses as part of our plan to help create 100,000 new businesses across the UK over the next five years.

Second, we believe levelling up is not possible without creating thriving town centres and high streets. We need to get money back into people’s pockets so money can be spent locally to support local economies. Creating good jobs will help this, but it also means fixing the national economy too. Our plans would include replacing Business Rates with a new tax system that would no longer disadvantage high street firms versus large online competitors. We support establishing greater powers for local authorities so that they can purchase and revitalise high street buildings and properties to help renew local areas.

Third, efficient and green transport will be key to unlocking economic growth in all parts of the UK. Labour will take rail franchises back into public control and enable local authorities to form their own bus companies. This will help to put local communities back in control of their local transport infrastructure – enabling a system which is responsive to local demand and needs.

Fourth, we want to see greater devolution of power across the UK, enabling local communities to control decision-making about their local areas. The Co-operative Party believes decentralisation is an important part of progressive politics – which can help to empower people and rebalance our economy and democracy. The Labour Government in Wales has already begun work to further empower local communities in regional economic development. We are committed to expanding this type of devolution across the UK.

Finally, Labour believes creating safer, more welcoming town centres is key to levelling up. We know a new way of doing things is required to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime. That’s why we will introduce new police hubs and neighbourhood prevention teams to work co-operatively with police, community support officers, youth workers and local authority staff to tackle crime at source. We will strengthen the rights of victims and confront violence against women and girls. Only by reducing crime and creating confidence in the justice system will we help to restore pride in our communities – a core part of levelling up.

Labour has a clear plan for levelling up. Now the Government must step up and show that their plans for levelling up are more than just rhetoric. The British people deserve action which puts communities first and helps to create an economy where power and wealth are shared.