02/02/2022 - Permalink

Shropshire Council response to Levelling Up White Paper announcements

Related topics: Democracy / Economic growth

Responding to today’s announcements relating to the Levelling Up White Paper, Ed Potter, Shropshire Council’s Deputy Leader, and Cabinet member for economic growth, regeneration and planning, said:

“Shropshire Council is very disappointed that today’s announcements, as part of the Levelling Up White Paper, do not include any specific announcements for investment in the county.

“We are one of the lowest funded councils in the country and our rurality is not recognised in our funding. For example, we have the same population as Nottingham, are 42 times bigger, yet they have 10% more spending power than we do.

“But, once again, Shropshire has been overlooked and has missed out, and at the moment we feel overlooked, unrecognised, taken for granted and completely undervalued.

“Last year our three bids to the Levelling Up Fund – bidding for £60m for Craven Arms, Oswestry, and Shrewsbury – were unsuccessful. We also missed out on High Street Funding, even though we were held as an exemplar of good practice. And we had hoped to be invited to submit a County Deal, and we had been working on an ambitious programme of devolution and investment approaching £1bn.

“We feel there is a big urban metropolitan divide with rural areas such as Shropshire. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has been given over £3bn to spend on infrastructure since coming to office, and we’ve just seen Wolverhampton has been chosen for even more as part of today’s announcement. We have contributed almost £200,000 to West Midlands Combined Authority and have had nothing in return.

“The Union Connectivity Review by Sir Peter Hendy made scant reference to Shropshire and failed to recognise the importance of our road and rail connectivity to Wales, especially as Shropshire accounts for over half of the English / Welsh border. Likewise, the Strategic Rail Review failed to recognise the strategic role of Shropshire as a gateway to Wales, and being at the centre of Heart of Wales line between Manchester and Cardiff.

“We recognise that in many ways Shropshire is attractive, with a good quality of life, and  has many aspects we are all proud of. However, there are many people who are struggling to access affordable housing, have inadequate public transport and are looking for better quality jobs and opportunities to improve their skills. We also recognise that we have thousands of businesses who are striving to succeed, and with just a little additional support are ready to take the next big steps in their success and development.

“We will take a little time to reflect on this and decide what we think is in the best interests of Shropshire. We will continue to work with Shropshire MPs and local businesses leaders to lobby the Government for recognition of our needs and opportunities and the role we can play in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic recession and impacts of Brexit.

“Levelling Up was supposed to be different. The wealth of the UK is generated in places such as Shropshire, yet we have at least one hand, if not two, tied behind our backs. If Levelling Up does not address the structural challenges we face, then what will?”