Wigan highlighted as Prime Minister makes speech on ‘levelling-up’

Mr Johnson set out the Government’s vision on its ideas for levelling-up the country in a speech on Thursday.

The borough got a direct mention as Mr Johnson referred to the recent decision by Heinz to move production of tomato ketchup and other goods from the Netherlands to its massive plant at Kitt Green.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson delivering his speech on levelling up

Speaking from the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) in Coventry, the Prime Minister outlined the challenges that the country faces and the opportunities that exist to make sure Britain builds back better following the Covid-19 pandemic.

A white paper will be published in the autumn giving more detail to the Government’s plans.

In response to the speech Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he could not disagree with much of the analysis of the country’s problems but asked where the concrete policies to fix them were.

Mr Johnson said there will be new funding of £50m next year for grassroots football pitches to enable more people to access high-quality football pitches, with disadvantaged communities specifically targeted.

The £150m Community Ownership Fund, which gives people across the UK the chance to take charge of their local pubs or football teams, also launches today (Thursday).

Communities will be able to bid for up to £250,000 match funding to buy or take over local assets and run them as community-owned businesses, including local pubs, theatres, post offices, sports grounds and corner shops, saving them from risk of closure.

There will also be changes to the way towns and cities look and the hospitality industry is able to operate.

Pavement licences will be expanded and then made permanent, making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to set up tables outside and serve more customers.

Takeaway pints will continue for another 12 months as the temporary permissions for off-sales of alcohol are extended in England and Wales.

The Government also intends to put through planning reforms which will ensure empty high street properties will be brought back into use as new businesses or homes.

High streets will also get a spruce-up, with £10m invested in removing chewing gum litter and gum stains, planning rules reviewed so that new fast food outlets have to clean up litter they generate and councils encouraged to take a more hands-on approach to cleaning up graffiti with by a £2m war chest.

Ideas include offenders doing high visibility clean-up of graffiti, litter and fly-tipping.

There will be a UK-wide National High Streets Day where local communities across the UK come together to clean up and celebrate their local urban spaces.

Wigan has already benefitted from Government policies on this subject as it has received £16.6m from the Future High Streets fund.

The borough could also see improvements in infrastructure through the launch of the £4.2bn City Region Sustainable Transport Fund.

Greater Manchester will receive a share of this pot which could help fund contactless ticketing, new metro or light rail systems, significant improvements in local rail and bus services, new cycle lanes, and measures to tackle congestion and pollution.

In his speech Mr Johnson said there was a need to empower strong local leaders by taking a more flexible approach to devolution, focus on growing the private sector by creating the conditions for long-term growth and productivity, invest in infrastructure and connectivity, ensure that people have access to good public services and the skills and training needed to get good jobs and improve the quality of life in communities through cutting crime and regenerating towns and high streets.

In response Mr Burnham queried whether the measures so far announced by the Government would actually work and match its stated ambitions to level up.

He said: “Much of the Prime Minister’s analysis today was right and I don’t in any way disagree with it – far too often people’s life chances and health are still determined by the postcode they are born in.

“But what was missing was credible action that would actually change the reality of people’s lives here in the North of England.

“You don’t level up by throwing money at towns here and there and creating a chewing gum taskforce.

“You do it by backing city-regions like ours to create a London-style transport network with London level fares that will unite towns and cities and transform the life chances of the 2.8 million people who live here.

“I urge the Government to give us the power and resources we need and make levelling up a reality here in the North.”

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Wigan Today