‘Levelling up doesn't happen by magic’: Devolution is ‘essential for tackling inequality’, Keir Starmer says

28 March 2024, 11:11

Keir Starmer has promised a 'full fat' devolution
Keir Starmer has promised a 'full fat' devolution. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to give regional authorities more powers under a Labour government, as he said that "levelling up doesn't happen by magic".

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The Labour leader said that he wanted the new powers to be used to create wealth outside of London, the south-east and the major cities.

"Devolution is absolutely essential for taking on regional inequality," he said in a speech in Dudley launching Labour's local election campaign.

"Levelling up doesn't happen by magic, but the energy and drive must always come from the place itself," he said, promising a "full-fat approach to devolution".

Sir Keir said that Labour would launch a new industrial strategy that would create 650,000 jobs to "relight the fires of renewal in communities" like Dudley.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Alamy

Some of these would be in car factory "gigafactories" in the Midlands, "clean steel" in Sheffield, and ports to support the "offshore boom in the north".

Sir Keir said that only 10% of the money set aside for levelling up projects had been allocated so far, and promised to unlock more of it.

But he would not be drawn on new money for local authorities, claiming that there was no "magic money tree" with the Conservatives having "broken the economy".

He said: "I can't pretend that we can turn the taps on, pretend that damage hasn't been done to the economy, it has. The way out of that is to grow our economy".

Keir Starmer vowed to do the hard yards on levelling up
Keir Starmer vowed to do the hard yards on levelling up. Picture: Alamy

He said that Conservatives had not done the "hard yards" on levelling up.

"It's about people with skin in the game and playing their full part, but alongside a national strategy that works.

"That is hard yards. And my frustration of the past 14 years, but particularly since 2019, is that in saying levelling up, the Government was tapping into something real that people yearned for, but they didn't have a viable plan. And they didn't do the hard yards. That's unforgivable.

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"And we intend to turn that around and make sure that we can make that connection real and change places across the Black Country."

Sir Keir said he hoped to have been launching a general election campaign for a May vote, but said Rishi Sunak of "bottled it".

"He wants one last drawn-out summer tour with his beloved helicopter," he said. "So we need to send him another message, show his party once again that their time is up, the dithering must stop, the date must be set.