LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will vow on Thursday to “level up” the forgotten parts of Britain without damaging those areas that are already thriving when he sets out plans for the flagship policy that helped him win election.
Johnson, who won a 2019 national vote thanks largely to voters in struggling regions of England, will set out his vision which he hopes will also relieve pressure on other densely populated parts of the country.
The British economy is dominated by London and the southeast and a 2020 report for the government found that gaps in economic productivity between the capital and other regions of the United Kingdom were as wide as they were in 1901.
Many governments have vowed, and failed, to bring more jobs and prosperity to the areas around the former industrial towns in northern England, and Johnson has promised to “level up” in part through higher spending on infrastructure.
“We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies,” he will say in a speech in the West Midlands, central England, according to excerpts released by his office. “We don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer.”
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Johnson will argue that previous governments directed investment in areas where house prices were already high and transport already congested. He hopes that by investing in areas with lower growth, people there will not have to move to secure better jobs.
“We will have made progress in Levelling Up when we have begun to raise living standards, spread opportunity, improved our public services and restored people’s sense of pride in their community,” he will say.
Hit by a pandemic at the start of 2020, Johnson has so far given few concrete examples of how he hopes to transform the fortunes of the country’s poorer towns, but the government is looking to invest in the green economy and attract foreign investment.
It has been given a boost in recent weeks with the news that Nissan and Stellantis both plan to invest more in Britain, to build a battery plant and electric vans in the north east and north west of the country respectively.
Even with that Britain is still lagging other big European countries in the race to produce batteries for the new cleaner vehicles of the future. Coventry Airport, in the West Midlands, is also vying to become the site for a gigafactory.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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