THE new economic campus in Darlington becomes more real by the day, and the artist’s impressions of the six storey office block that will occupy a piece of land that has been scratty and waste for nearly 30 years are transformational.
It will bring a new meaning, and hopefully a new vibrancy, to the town centre, even if the office block is shockingly modern by design.
It may even bring a new mindset to Treasury officials – when they are based in Darlington, would they be so keen to cut a top rate of income tax that overwhelming benefits individuals who live in the more prosperous south?
However, it was reassuring to see Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in town reaffirming his commitment to the project. He also tried to reassure us that levelling up, which appears to have dropped down the agenda of the Truss government, was now “baked in” to “natural Government policy”.
Is this good or bad? It is good if it means every Government decision is only taken when positive ramifications for regions such as ours have been identified.
But it is bad if it means that levelling up becomes just another plank of Government thinking, along with raising educational standards, improving the NHS or cutting crime. The reason levelling up had such resonance among red wall voters was that the Government viewed it as something special. It was the icing on top of the cake, the focus of attention, but now the fear is that it is becoming just one of the many ingredients baked into the cake mixture and so will lose its individual flavour.