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East Midlands Chamber News

UK regions lose faith in levelling-up agenda, says HS2 East campaign

New research by campaign group HS2 East has revealed a lack of public confidence in the levelling-up agenda.

A poll of more than 2,000 people from the Midlands and the North revealed that just 20% were confident the Government is doing enough to level up the UK economy.

The study also revealed concerns about the longer-term impacts of Covid-19 and the associated strain it has put on public finances.

Findings by HS2 East campaign on levelling-up agenda

Some 59% of people were worried the pandemic would widen social and economic inequalities, while 47% of those questioned thought it may stop Government investing in infrastructure, welfare and affordable housing.

Seven out of 10 people also thought that the short-term pressures of Covid-19 had shifted focus away from climate change and stalled efforts to decarbonise.

It comes as leaders from across the East Midlands and North call for Government to commit to delivering the Eastern Leg of HS2.

A recent report showed that communities surrounding the Eastern Leg suffered from lower productivity, received a lower transport spend and were home to a greater number of social mobility cold spots than their counterparts on HS2’s Western Leg, as well as compared to the UK average.

Crucially, these social mobility cold spots – where educational and employment outcomes were poor – were highly correlated with areas experiencing transport poverty.

HS2 Phase 2b is crucial to East Midlands, say politicians

Darren Henry, MP for Broxtowe and chairman of the Midlands Engine APPG, said: “It is clear that the public is concerned about the longer-term effects of Covid-19, and the impact it will have on communities like Broxtowe that have historically been underfunded.

“Now is the time for the Government to restore public confidence in levelling up by committing to the Eastern Leg of HS2.

“In the East Midlands, the new hub station at Toton will create thousands of highly-skilled jobs, is sparking a huge improvement in local transport links and will establish the region as a centre for innovation and renewable energy generation.

“It will provide green, carbon-neutral travel for the next century. It must go ahead, as the Prime Minister and numerous other Cabinet Ministers have repeatedly promised.”

Lord McLoughlin, the former Transport Secretary, added: “It is crystal clear that the Eastern Leg of HS2 must go ahead in full.

“Any further delay will undermine the economic future of the East Midlands, at a time when we need to be decisive and boost business confidence.

“In particular, the new HS2 East Midlands Hub at Toton is a hugely exciting opportunity for development, and one that we cannot pass by. If Government is going to successfully level up, it must give this project the green light.”

The National Infrastructure Commission is due to imminently publish its Rail Needs Assessment, a series of recommendations to Government regarding how it can optimise the delivery of HS2’s Eastern Leg. Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, setting out how the Eastern Leg will be delivered, is due out before the end of the year.