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Nottingham Labour

Councillor Sam Webster’s final speech

Councillor Sam Webster has given many speeches at full council over his years as a councillor. These speeches have raised the issues that many in Nottingham have faced, what Nottingham Labour is doing to help solve these and frequently taken the Tory government and its failures to task. This is the case of Cllr Webster’s last speech which focused on the failure and empty rhetoric of the Conservatives levelling up. The speech in full is below:

Councillor Sam Webster

Levelling Up

A Very laudable statement of intent

Who could disagree with that? 

unfortunately the current Prime Minister has in fact stated that he disagrees with the ambition to Level Up. He must be one of only a few people in Britain who doesn’t see the need to direct investment and resources to those parts of the country where it’s needed most. Where investment would have most impact, those left behind areas where we all know there is so much potential and talent going to waste. 

When I was thinking about my contribution to this debate today part of me thought shouldn’t I just let the Prime Minister say what he believes and what he has done since he’s been in a position of political power.  

“I managed to start changing the funding formulas. 

We inherited a bunch of formulas from the Labour Party, which shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas. 

That needed to be undone. 

I started the work of undoing that”

Rishi Sunak, Summer 2022. Just a few months ago!

We should all remember his words, because he meant them.

And when we think of what he said and what he stands for and what he believes – we therefore shouldn’t be at all surprised when Nottingham is refused a single penny of Levelling Up funding as it was in the most recent round of allocations.

We shouldn’t be surprised when the midlands and the north, and when the poorest areas of the country and when the areas with the greatest need are refused new investment. 

We shouldn’t be surprised. 

But we should be outraged. All of us who care about our city, our neighbourhoods, our region. Councillors, MPs, residents, business owners and leaders, local journalists. We should all be outraged because as this motion described the process of allocating money isn’t fair, it isn’t transparent, it isn’t adequate and it isn’t fit for purpose. 

It isn’t built on sound policy. levelling Up was always a political slogan. An electioneering slogan put to good use by the Conservative Party as something that sounds good to people and is something most people want to see happen. 

But levelling up is a political slogan, not a policy of Government. Policy would require specific measurable and tangible outcomes.

And because levelling up is a political slogan rather than a policy it’s not surprising that the whole process and method had become highly politicised.

Money is awarded in a political fashion, so you get these decisions to award £19m to Rishi Sunak’s wealthy Richmond constituency when other areas with an extreme need for investment and a business case based on productivity to back up that need, lose out. 

There are so many reasons why genuine Levelling Up is needed.  

why a genuine plan and policy to increase investment and start to generate economic growth beyond the South East , higher productivity, higher levels of skills is needed. So many reasons why both economic and social. 

But the truth is it isn’t happening. In fact on most key indicators the country is going in the wrong direction.

I can reel off a whole list of indicators where the Government is not only failing to deliver on its Levelling Up slogan, but is failing to deliver on the fundamentals of Government, its core duty to improve people’s lives in this country, to improve improve our prospects, to prepare us better for the future.

Economy – OECD expects the UKs performance over the next 2 years to be the worst of all major advanced economies. While growth is predicted in The United States, the EU as a whole and Japan, no growth is predicted for the UK.

Lack of any industrial strategy. No meaningful link between education, schools, colleges and the needs of businesses, the growth areas of the future, the very visible skills shortages we have bursting out all over, in a while range of sectors from health, to technology to hospitality to construction and logistics. There is no plan and we can see businesses and employers becoming more and more agitated, but also far too many young people not being given the chance to fulfil their potential. 

Remember – left behind places means left behind people. 

There’s a short-termism in Government and all too often in corporate culture and that short termism comes from the top. 3 Prime Ministers in a matter of months, need I say more.

Transport infrastructure falling behind our global comparator countries (you only have to look at our railways to see the problem very clearly)
 – expensive (6% increase on fares implemented today) 

  • unreliable 
  • Unclean 
  •   inefficient and slow 
  • Frankly an embarrassment for a country that once led the world on rail travel 

Lack of a plan or the required targeted investment in public health with dire consequences for people and places across the country. Official statistics now show clear trends that in the poorest parts of the UK life expectancy has been falling. The first time this has happened in modern times and a phenomenon that isn’t happening in other similar countries.

And of course the policies of this Government for 13 years have decimated local areas, local public services. You can’t genuinely level up on one off capital investment. What’s needed is a new social and economic contract with people. What’s needed is sustained, targeted investment based on need and based on achieving key outcomes – better health, more good jobs, a cleaner environment, good quality housing….

Labour Council’s have so often been the last line of defence when it comes to children’s centres, libraries, local swimming pools, housing standards, affordable public transport…..but as we all know, as my colleagues all painfully know, such has been the scale of the onslaught from Conservatives in Government over such a prolonged period we’ve at times been practically forced to doing things that none of us came into politics to do.

Sadly I think our requests set out in the motion will go unheard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t  try. 

It is my firm belief that only a change in Government will change the course of the country. A change in course that is, as each day goes by becoming more and more urgent.

Our country desperately needs a fresh start. Only a general election can offer that fresh start.