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BORIS Johnson branded levelling up "the greatest project that any government can embark on" in his closing speech at the Conservative Party's annual conference

Levelling up? Don’t forget the South West, says MP

IAN Liddell-Grainger has warned the Government not to ignore the needs of the South West as it starts the process of ‘levelling up’ the UK.

The MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset says the region’s needs are every bit as pressing as those of the North West and the North East, where the Government’s attention currently appears to be focussed.

And he has told ministers not to take the South West for granted even though it is predominantly Conservative territory.

Mr Liddell-Grainger believes the South West has a huge amount of catching-up to do in terms of education and health service provision when compared with other parts of the UK.

Milk and honey

He said: “There seems to exist in some ministers’ minds the notion that the South West is a land flowing with milk and honey and with a buoyant tourism sector delivering all the prosperity it needs.

“The reality behind that is one of a region where both health service and education provision lag woefully behind what is regarded as standard in London and the South East.

“Added to that we have our own particular problem of population sparsity in rural areas and the remoteness of many communities.

“What those two factors mean is that many parts of the countryside lack the critical mass of population to warrant the provision of schools or medical centres so when access to such facilities is required journeys are longer and costlier in terms of both transport and time, adding up to a significant inconvenience.

“We need to maintain a thriving rural economy but at the moment people are being financially penalised and disadvantaged if they choose to live in the countryside.”

Additional cost

Mr Liddell-Grainger said country families had long lived with the reality of a rural premium – the additional cost of delivering goods and services to out-of-the-way places.

He added: “But in the South West – and particularly in my own constituency – that discrepancy has become far more obvious in recent years.

“I am afraid the South West has been taken for granted by ministers because it’s largely blue on the political map.

“But now that the Government has committed itself to levelling up the country there is no longer any excuse for not remedying the situation –and we can make out just as strong a case as the North East or the North West for being brought up to the same standards as London enjoys.”

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