Tory teen National Service plan could slash Lancashire Levelling Up cash, Labour warns

British Army soldiers
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


Labour politicians have warned the Conservative Party’s new National Service plans for teenagers could lead to big cuts in Levelling Up cash for East Lancashire.

Last week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that if re-elected on July 4 his party would bring in the scheme which would require 18-year-olds either join the armed forces or take part in volunteer work in their community. The Conservative Party said that from 2028/29 this will be funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), a £1.5 billion pot which is one of the major funding streams for Levelling Up.

Now sitting Blackburn MP and Labour General Election candidate Kate Hollern and Darwen West ward’s Labour councillor Dave Smith have branded the proposal “a gimmick” which could cut millions of pounds from vital regeneration budgets in East Lancashire.

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The Northern Powerhouse Partnership estimated that the diversion of UKSPF funding could cost £262million across the North-West. But Rossendale and Darwen Conservative MP and former Northern Powerhouse minister Sir Jake Berry dismissed the claims.

Mrs Hollern said: ‘This national service policy is nothing more than the latest gimmick from a party that has run out of ideas. Paid for by essentially re-directing funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund, the government once again reveals the reality of its so-called levelling-up agenda.

“This is yet another desperate, last gasp attempt to distract from the chaos and instability that the Conservatives have caused over the last 14 years. Labour is committed to providing transformative change with real, fully funded policies.’

Blackburn with Darwen Council planning committee chairman Cllr Smith said: “As well as the armed forces being against this proposal it turns out that it will be funded by big cuts to the existing Levelling Up funds given to councils and combined authorities. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership points out that educational and other programmes would have to be cut in order to fund the scheme.

“It’s ill thought out and a gimmick.”

Sir Jake, who is standing again on July 4, said: “‘I’ve secured £243million for Rossendale and Darwen to transform our towns and villages, cut congestion and rebuild schools. I can absolutely guarantee that this money is not at risk from a new national service scheme.

“We are delivering real change here in East Lancashire but what we are at risk from is a Labour government with no plan, no ideas and Keir Starmer who doesn’t have the conviction to stick to anything he says.”

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “To take money disproportionately from the most disadvantaged places for a policy that will have little or no impact on addressing the North/South divide is a mistake.

“Sadly, Levelling Up looks to have been well and truly have been abandoned by the Conservatives.”