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24 January 2022

Levelling down: Boris Johnson is set to spend less on English regional development than previous Tory governments

The north of England is at risk of losing £300m for regional economic development after Brexit.

Most English regions are set to receive less funding for regional development than they did under David Cameron or Theresa May, despite levelling up being the flagship policy of Boris Johnson’s government.

An analysis by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Pace think tank at Teesside University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation compared funding under the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund against a forecast of future spending under the new Levelling Up Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). The study found that people in the north of England are at risk of losing £300m for regional economic development.

The researchers found that those communities in greatest need in England will be significantly worse off after Brexit than they were before, with the new funds not compensating for the loss of European funding. Tees Valley (one of the most deprived areas of the UK) is expected to see annual funding cut from £46m to £21m per year, unless Treasury ministers intervene.

The estimates assume that funding is allocated in a similar manner to the Community Renewal Fund – the pilot phase of the SPF. Devolved nations and Cornwall have their funding protected in cash terms, as promised in the Conservative manifesto and the last spending review.

The government is expected to release a delayed white paper on levelling up in February.

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