Labour accuses Tory contenders of abandoning ‘levelling up’ agenda

·3-min read

Labour is accusing the remaining Tory leadership contenders of having abandoned Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda in the race to promise tax cuts.

In a keynote speech in Darlington on Monday, shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy will say that a Labour government will “meet this moment” and take up the commitment to bring prosperity to left-behind communities.

She will set out plans for a strengthened community right to buy to enable local people to take control of assets such as pubs, historic buildings, and football clubs that come up for sale or fall into disrepair.

Her intervention will be seen as part of Labour’s strategy to win back supporters in the so-called “red wall” seats which fell to the Tories in Mr Johnson’s 2019 landslide general election victory.

In her speech, Ms Nandy will argue that the UK is stuck in a “high tax, low growth spiral” from which the only escape is for all parts of the country to be able to make a contribution again.

“Those voices in the Tory Party who tried to advance the levelling up agenda have been roundly defeated and now the ugly truth of this is on full display as leadership contenders vie for the mantle of Margaret Thatcher, promising tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and more managed decline across Britain,” she is expected to say.

“This leadership contest looks set to be the final nail in the coffin for the Conservatives’ short-lived ambitions to level up.

“Promises that were made with a bang are fading with a whimper. Half-baked ideas have barely made it into the oven.

“In short, the Tories’ commitment to levelling up is dead. But levelling up is not dead. Not for the millions who voted for change – and who need and deserve to see it delivered.”

Under Labour’s proposals to enhance community right to buy – first enshrined in the 2011 Localism Act – communities would be given first refusal on listed assets, including the right to buy them without competition.

They would also have the right to force a sale of land or buildings that have fallen into a state of significant disrepair, and they will be given 12 months to raise finance, a doubling of the current allowance.

The party has also appointed for Ernst & Young chief economist Mark Gregory to head a commission to explore how community groups can best leverage private investment to buy assets through an enhanced community ownership fund.

In her speech, Ms Nandy will say it represents the first step on the way to greater financial autonomy for towns, villages, and cities.

“The only conditions attached are that it must raise revenue to be used and passed down through the generations, and that it must be driven by the wishes of the community, held in common, and used for the common good,” she is expected to say.

“Because what is needed is not a Hunger Games-style grants system where we have to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall, but financial autonomy, so that our communities will no longer live or die at the whim of a Tory chancellor who promises to level up one day and to govern like Thatcher the next.”

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