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Starmer speaks of ‘frustration’ at Boris Johnson’s ‘unforgiveable failure’ to level up

Sir Keir Starmer has admitted Boris Johnson was “right” to propose levelling up but said he was “frustrated” by the former prime minister’s “unforgivable” failure to deliver.

The Labour leader also claimed the policy, which defined Mr Johnson’s premiership, was “strangled at birth” by his successor, Rishi Sunak.

Speaking to Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby at the launch of Labour’s local election campaign in Dudley, Sir Keir said “the idea” of levelling up that was put before the electorate in 2019 by Mr Johnson was “right”.

But he added: “What that requires – and this is where I get frustrated – is if you really believe that… I’m afraid you’ve got to roll your sleeves up, you’ve got to put a plan on the table, you go the hard yards.

“And so what is unforgivable about Boris Johnson is, having made that the focus, he didn’t do the hard yards of delivery and that’s why people feel even more let down.”

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The Labour leader was equally critical of Mr Sunak, whom he said had “strangled levelling up at birth because he wouldn’t put the funding behind it – and we know what the consequences are.”

However, despite criticising the Conservatives for their failure to put money behind the policy, Sir Keir refused to commit any new funding to local councils, which are straddling an estimated funding gap of £4bn over the next two years.

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Starmer pushed on council funding crisis

He told Rigby his party “can’t turn on the spending taps” for cash-strapped local authorities but that funding settlements could be made longer to provide more stability.

“If we stabilise the economy, that will reduce inflation,” he said. “That’s been a big drag for councils.”

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Another change Sir Keir put forward was a ban on no-fault evictions, which he said added to the “strain” on councils which then have to find alternative accommodation.

The ban on no-fault evictions is one of a number of measures that have been held up in the long-delayed Renters Reform Bill, which Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has been accused of watering down to appease sceptical backbenchers.

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But Mr Gove said the Labour leader “couldn’t be more wrong” with his assessment of the government’s record.

“We are the party that’s been leading on levelling up for years now,” he said.

“The areas of the country in the Midlands and the North that Labour neglected for decades have had an infusion of cash and a power surge thanks to this Conservative government.

“We’re the people who’ve given power to mayors in the Tees Valley and in the West Midlands, who’ve had a decisive impact on raising wages, levering in investment, empowering local communities.

“Labour are late to this game and also they come with nothing new to say. No new money, no new powers, no plan at all.”

Sky News Source