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Boris Johnson has outlined his levelling up plan, which he claims will unleash the “unique spirit” of the country as he sets out on the “difficult” process of reshaping the economy.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to find the “talent, genius, care, imagination and enthusiasm everywhere in this country”, adding his levelling-up agenda was about ensuring opportunity for all.
Johnson made his speech at the Conservative Party conference amid shortages of lorry drivers and other workers hitting supply chains, leading to empty shelves and queues at petrol stations.
His levelling-up plans may also be hindered by a looming National Insurance rise for millions of workers to fund a £12 billion annual investment in health and social care and the cut in Universal Credit (UC).
Watch: Boris Johnson sets out levelling up agenda in conference speech
Johnson said: “We have one of the most imbalanced societies and lopsided economies of all the richer countries.
“It is not just that there is a gap between London and the south-east and the rest of the country, there are aching gaps within the regions themselves”
But think-tank Resolution Foundation has forecast the £20 UC cut will disproportionately impact the people Johnson says he wants to help "level up".
The chart below shows London (28%) and the south-east (21%) are not among the top five worst-hit areas from the cut.
These were Northern Ireland (36%), Wales (35%), West Midlands (34%), Yorkshire and the Humber (34%) and North East (34%).
The percentages show the proportion of non-pensioner households that will lose over £1,000 in 2021/22 after their benefit is reduced.
Resolution Foundation said: “At the constituency level we can also see that in several Red Wall seats that the Conservatives won with small majorities in the last election, almost half of households look set to be affected.
“Overall, half a million working-age households in Red Wall seats will lose out (and indeed these contemporary figures may be underestimates of claimant numbers for 2021).”
It adds: "You are 50 per cent more likely to lose out in the Red Wall regions than in the South-east."
From Wednesday, no assessments will include the UC uplift, meaning that from 13 October no monthly payments will be received that include the extra money.
Charities have called on the government to reverse the cut, after Johnson referred to tackling big societal problems in his party conference speech in Manchester.
Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “They’re being squeezed by a £20-a-week cut and squeezed by soaring food, fuel and energy prices.
“Three quarters of children living in poverty in the UK are in working families¹ and as our recent research² shows this cut will compound previous benefits losses from the past decade.
“There’s no road to levelling up the country that starts with making more children cold and hungry this winter.”
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, added: “The Prime Minister’s vocabulary was action-packed but the big action for struggling families has been a Universal Credit cut that leaves them without enough to live on.
“The opportunity the Prime Minister speaks of will feel like a vanishing light for these families – in their millions.
“Child poverty is rising in the UK and the Universal Credit cut will push it higher. Will the Government have the guts to confront and tackle it or will it go on sidestepping it as an inconvenience?”