UK's Johnson announces urban renewal plans after promise to "level up"

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Britain's PM Johnson walks outside Downing Street, in London

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced a series of urban renewal projects worth 830 million pounds ($1.2 billion) in towns and cities away from London as part of his promise to "level up" the country's economy.

Johnson, who won a 2019 election thanks largely to voters in struggling regions of England and is facing pressure from nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, also said more than 3,000 interior and business ministry jobs would move to Stoke-on-Trent in central England, Edinburgh and Belfast by 2025.

"As the country gets back on its feet, the government has renewed its commitment to levelling up and tackling the issues that really matter to people," Johnson said in a statement.

Among the projects to get public funds are a new cinema and food hall in northern fishing port Grimsby, a new performance venue in Taunton in western England, and the conversion of retail space into offices and hospitality venues in Sutton-in-Ashfield, a former mining area in northern England.

A further 10 million pounds would be spent improving teaching in four local authorities and a program to help vulnerable young people would be expanded by 18 million pounds.

Gaps in economic productivity between London and other regions of the United Kingdom were as wide as they were in 1901, according to a report for the government last year.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said on Tuesday that Britain lacked a plan to address Brexit, climate change, the impact of the COVID pandemic and other challenges which could weaken its economic performance to levels nearer those of struggling Italy than Germany over the 2020s.

($1 = 0.7043 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden)

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