We asked England's regional mayors if they think Rishi's budget will 'level-up' the rest of the country 3 months ago

We asked England's regional mayors if they think Rishi's budget will 'level-up' the rest of the country

Mayors have their say: Is the Budget 'levelling-up'?

The Conservative party bagged their huge majority in 2019 with promises to deliver Brexit and “level up” - sending “the Red Wall” tumbling down. 

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This was reiterated in chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget yesterday, where he said he'd honour his party's manifesto pledge to the regions in England outside of London.

So, with the regional elections on the horizon, what do the local political leaders think of the chancellor's economic agenda?

Andy Burnham, Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester: 'A packet of Polos'

Andy Burnham after being elected as Greater Manchester Andy Burnham (Credit: Anthony Devlin)

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Burnham, former MP and Labour leadership hopeful, described the Budget as "piecemeal" and "like a packet of Polos": refreshing, but full of holes.

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While welcoming the chancellor's broadening of support for the self-employed, as well as mentions of a "Green Industrial Revolution", Burnham said the Budget falls short.

He said the pandemic had a “greater and disproportionate” affect on the North West, and cited a six-fold increase in households in destitution in the North West versus a two-fold national average.

And, while Burnham welcomed the Treasury's plans to move staff north, he criticised the Budget for its lack of focus on devolution.

“You can’t level-up the country top-down from Whitehall by just picking places almost at random, you need a strategic plan for the North of England," he said.

“You need devolution of power, to give more places the ability to do more for themselves - and I think the things we were promised by George Osborne all those years ago are things that we are still waiting for."

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Overall, Burnham said the government needs to put "real substance" behind the "levelling-up" rhetoric they use so often.

Burnham will face the Conservative candidate Laura Evans in the Greater Manchester mayoral elections in May.

Andy Street, Conservative Mayor of West Midlands: 'Exactly what we asked of him'

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Andy Street on stage at a Conservative party conference Andy Street (Credit: Christopher Furlong)

In his speech yesterday, Sunak gave the West Midlands mayor and businessman an honourable mention.

Addressing the Commons, he said:  "And let me pay tribute to local leaders, like the brilliant Mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, who are making the case for investment in their area."

Well, what did Street think himself?

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“The chancellor has done exactly what we asked of him, and set out clear and wide-ranging support to help see West Midlands businesses and the self-employed through to the end of the roadmap and into the recovery stage," he said.

Street welcomed new spending for cities in the regions, and highlighted how the West Midlands has been hit hard by lockdown restrictions.

“The pandemic has really hurt the West Midlands economy, but with the measures announced today, alongside our local plans, I am confident we will be able to bounce back quickly and start getting people back into work.”

Street has been the West Midlands mayor since 2017 and will face Labour MP Liam Byrne  in the elections in May.

Steve Rotheram, Labour Mayor of Liverpool City Region: 'A missed opportunity'

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram Steve Rotheram (Credit: Richard Stonehouse)

A former Labour MP, Rotheram has been the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool Region since 2017.

Rotherham welcomed some of the announcements the chancellor announced yesterday, including the furlough scheme.

However, he said the measures did not go far enough to meet the government's promises of "levelling-up."

“In my view, the measures announced today fall short of the comprehensive long-term recovery plan and investment in our public services like the NHS, schools and local councils, which regions like ours need if the government is to achieve its stated aim of levelling-up," he said.

He also echoed Burnham's concerns about the lack of further devolution

“I was equally disappointed that the chancellor had almost nothing to say about devolving more power and funding away from Whitehall, when areas like ours could be taking steps now to boost the economic recovery, had we been given more backing by government."

Like Burnham he was dismayed about the millions of self-employed people left out of the government's self-employed support, saying "they deserved better."

Reflecting on the whole Budget, Rotheram said: "I think today was a missed opportunity for the government to set out a clear long-term vision for our economic recovery in a post-pandemic, post-Brexit world."

Rotherham will face the Conservative's mayoral candidate Jade Marsden in the May elections.

Dan Jarvis, Labour Mayor of the Sheffield City Region: 'This Budget was a political ploy'

Dan Jarvis meeting people Dan Jarvis (Credit: Ian Forsyth)

The Sheffield City Region Mayor, elected in 2018, is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central and a former British Army Officer.

While expressing approval of some of the economic support measures, he slammed much of it - describing it as "a Budget driven from Westminster, by naked political ambition and funded by half-measures."

“This Budget was a political ploy, not a plan for people and places across South Yorkshire and the North who need support to be levelled-up after the pandemic," he said.

“A cursory glance at the government’s criteria for the Levelling-Up Fund is symbolic of their divide and rule approach."

Jarvis expressed a desire to see a revision of the Budget to provide proper support for the North and the Sheffield City Region area.

"Ministers must change their approach, or they will put the country on course for a deeply divided recovery.”

Jarvis will by vying for re-election next year in the 2022 mayoral election.