Levelling up will not hurt great status of London, insists Boris Johnson

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The Prime Minister insisted the capital would also benefit from his masterplan to regenerate rundown areas of the North and Midlands (PA)
The Prime Minister insisted the capital would also benefit from his masterplan to regenerate rundown areas of the North and Midlands (PA)

Boris Johnson on Thursday launched a strong defence of his “levelling-up” agenda arguing it will not dent London as the “greatest city on earth”.

The Prime Minister insisted the capital would also benefit from his masterplan to regenerate rundown areas of the North and Midlands.

Speaking in Coventry, Mr Johnson was due to say: “To those who seriously worry that levelling up could in some way be to the detriment of London and the South-East, let me make some obvious points… and I speak as someone who has spent the last decade campaigning to extend the lead of London as the greatest city on earth.

“Does anyone really think it has been bad for London to have the BBC growing and flourishing in Manchester as well?

“Is it bad for JP Morgan that they have a back office in Bournemouth that is one of the biggest private sector employers in Dorset? Of course not.

“And it is obvious that greater regional prosperity means more customers and more business for our national metropolis that already leads the world in financial and business services and so many other sectors of the 21st century economy.”

However, 12 central London councils warned the Government against “levelling down” the capital and stressed the need to protect investment in jobs and skills.

The Central London Forward group said the city faces a “double whammy” with its economy being hit been harder than any region by the pandemic and up to £100 million of much needed funding for training and employment advice “at risk”.

Conservative councillor Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea, said: “Cutting funding in the capital would look more like levelling down, which would be bad both for our city, and for the UK recovery too.”

University chiefs in London have already warned that they face losing funding in a shake-up which could see more money going to institutions in other parts of the country.

However, ministers argue that by boosting other regions, pressures on London and other “overheating” areas, including the high cost of housing, will be eased as fewer people will migrate to the capital.

Mr Johnson criticised previous governments for channelling investment too much in “areas where house prices are already sky high and where transport is already congested”.

He emphasised that by “turbo charging” the capital and other areas, particularly in the South-East, house prices rise “even higher”, commutes on crowded trains become longer and so people have less time with their children, who they fear will not be able to buy a home later in life.

Mr Johnson argued his levelling-up agenda is “win win” and will not be a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as he tries to keep the support of traditional Tories in the South and to consolidate his party’s standing in the former Labour “Red Wall” constituencies in the North and Midlands. Labour described Mr Johnson’s speech as an “empty husk of a speech” and said the Prime Minister would be “pitching people and towns against each other”.

It comes after the Tories lost the Chesham and Amersham by-election last month, which had been a stronghold, to the Lib Dems in a shock result.

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