South Yorkshire leaders attack Government over ‘pork-barrel politics’ in levelling up agenda
South Yorkshire’s mayor and council leaders have hit out at Government and accused them of ‘pork-barrel politics’ in their levelling up agenda.
City region mayor Dan Jarvis and the four Labour council leaders in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley, said the area had been shafted over the freeport bid, the UK Community Renewal Fund, Levelling Up Fund and the Towns fund.
The leaders said Government had distributed resources in a way which shows a ‘hollow façade, driven by politics and expediency rather than any serious attempt to address the deep seated challenges’.
They added that the area had been ‘levelled down by a triple whammy of industrial decline, Covid-19 and the worst effects of austerity’.
The Government’s Cabinet Office has been contacted for comment.
The freeport bid – which would have placed large parts of the county under a special economic zone to propel regeneration and industry – was turned down despite it scoring higher across many of the Government’s own categories.
This included the regeneration category most closely linked to levelling up – than many of the successful bids. On aggregate half the successful bids scored lower than South Yorkshire – two others were equal and just two higher.
On the UK Community Fund, South Yorkshire leaders said almost a third of the areas in England selected to receive money in this pot are ‘not amongst the most deprived local areas’ – including places like Richmondshire and East Northamptonshire. Of these, almost 90 per cent are represented by Conservative MPs.
On the Levelling Up Fund – leaders added Chancellor Rishi Sunak put his own constituency of Richmondshire, ranked number 251 out of 317 in England’s deprivation index, in a higher category of need than places like Barnsley, ranked 38, or Sheffield, ranked 93.
In a joint statement from SCR mayor Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Council leader, Coun Sir Steve Houghton, Doncaster mayor Ros Jones, Rotherham Council leader Chris Read and Bob Johnson leader of Sheffield Council, said: “The government promised to put levelling up at the centre of their agenda.
“But since taking office, they have distributed resources in a way which shows that to be a hollow façade, driven by politics and expediency rather than any serious attempt to address the deep seated challenges facing the parts of the UK most in need of support.
“Behind the rhetoric, actual funding and support have been tilted towards areas that are already well off, while areas most in need of investment have been left behind.
“The brutal reality is that places like South Yorkshire are being levelled down by a triple whammy of industrial decline, COVID, and the worst effects of austerity. We deserve better from the nation’s leaders. They preach levelling up, but their actions reflect how little of a priority they really give to it – and that speaks louder than their words ever could.”