A simple bus service is an example of levelling up, it was revealed today (Image: PA)
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Levelling up means people being able to catch a bus, a Cabinet Minister revealed today as he denied the Government believes deprived regions are “lost, no-hope areas”.
Top Tories have faced mounting demands to outline Boris Johnson's vision for tackling widespread inequality, which he has dubbed his “levelling up” agenda.
The Prime Minister campaigned on the flagship yet vague promise in the 2019 election when he won a Commons landslide.
But repeated calls to spell out what it means in practice have gone unanswered – until this morning.
Asked “how will you know when you have levelled up the UK – every region and every nation”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs: “If people feel that it is easier to get around their own town, their own community, and that has led to regeneration.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee this morning
(Image: Getty Images)
“If you ask people what makes their area very liveable, it's the fact that they are able to get into town and get out again in the evening or at the weekends, when bus services often haven't run, or an extension to a railway line has helped the local station create a community and a hub around it and so on and so forth.”
A “simple bus” may be evidence the policy has worked, he said.
Mr Shapps told the Commons Transport Select Committee: “There are very practical examples, often by big projects like (railway) stations and lines but actually often also …. just where you get a bus service running again.
The lack of frequency of rural bus services has long been the source of complaints
“A simple bus reappearing or starting for the first time, particularly in more rural areas, can be transformative, and that's what I call real levelling up, and it's not that difficult to do.”
He claimed proof that levelling up was successful would be voters telling their MPs: “This feels better than it used to feel around these parts.”
MPs would “strongly get the sense that things had improved in their town or community”, said Mr Shapps, adding:
“That would be the best measure of all.”
Better transport will also help, said Mr Shapps
(Image: Evening Gazette)
He pointed to local transport regeneration projects and urged MPs to “report back on the happiness of their constituents”.
Later, though he admitted: “Transport is only one element of levelling up – opportunities, jobs, education, housing are very key elements of levelling up as well.”
He insisted the Tories did not believe targets for levelling up were “lost, no-hope areas”.
“It's not that the skills, the desire's not there,” Mr Shapps told MPs.
He revealed what levelling up means for him
(Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“It's fundamentally not my belief or the belief of this Government that the reason we don't have the productivity in other regions of this country is somehow that they are lost, no-hope areas that wouldn't perform if they did.
“Quite the contrary. We absolutely believe, as the PM has said many times, that the skills and ability and ambition is spread equally around the country.
“What isn't equal is people's access to the markets.”
Traditional shire Tories fear No10 has prioritised levelling up and pumping funds into Red Wall seats at the expense of the party's southern heartlands and the Home Counties.
The Lib Dems' bombshell triumph in Buckinghamshire has worried some Home Counties Tories
Last month's shock by-election defeat to the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham spooked some Conservatives amid growing fears the party might seek to “level down” the South East to make the North and Midlands look better by comparison.
But Mr Shapps said: “When we talk about 'levelling up' we don't mean 'level down London' or productive areas in order to achieve a more level society.
“That would be crazy, and we absolutely back London, the South East, the areas which have traditionally had the highest levels of productivity.”