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66


HOTSPOT BLACKPOOL


IN ASSOCIATION WITH:


By Ged Henderson


A LEVEL-HEADED APPROACH


Much has been said and written about the government’s levelling up agenda since its red wall breakthrough across the North at the last general election.


The aim is to address the inequality that exists between different parts of the country and ‘level up’ underperforming and left-behind parts of the UK through a programme of infrastructure development and investment in education, skills 


The Northern Research Group, made up of Tory MPs from those former Labour strongholds that turned blue, is now urging Prime Minister Boris 


However, the challenge of turning rhetoric into concrete action that will make a real difference in places like Blackpool was highlighted in a 


The Centre for Cities research predicted the town, which saw its Blackpool South constituency turn from Labour to Conservative in 2019, will be the third hardest place in the UK to ‘level up’.


The town has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the UK. One in 10 working-age  last August and the crushing impact of Covid-19 on its tourism and hospitality sector, vitally important to the local economy, has taken its toll.


Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter warned: “Covid-19 will leave a lasting legacy. While the economic damage could be felt in


Paul Smith


At the end of last year, the council formally signed the terms of its £39.5m Town Deal and welcomed “a new era of partnership working with the government”.


Awarded from the £3.6bn Towns Fund, the support the deal will provide is set to boost


many cities and towns for decades, it will be worse in places that the Prime Minister has promised to level up.”


His think tank’s report may have painted a bleak picture, but amid the Covid uncertainty there are encouraging signs of regeneration and revival across Blackpool and a growing  from the government’s agenda and any cash that goes with it.


the town’s regeneration and post-Covid economic recovery.


And even more importantly, according to those involved in the successful fund bid, it opens the door for a wider conversation with government about future ways to support and revitalise the town.


There is much to be gained from those talks. Plans have been set out for a new £4bn Levelling Up Fund, investing in local projects worth up to £20m across the UK. Details of how it will work have yet to be revealed but Blackpool is already getting ready to bid for its share.


Then there is the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which intends to replace money that previously came from the EU. Again, it is a pot of 


Paul Smith, who chairs the Blackpool Town Deal board, is a former global chairman of law  projects director for Business in the Community (BITC), one of the Prince of Wales’ charities, and leads on its ‘Blackpool Pride of Place’ project.


He says: “The government has its levelling up  that. It’s a lot of money to go after, and we are going after it. We will be bidding hard.”


 in Blackpool, creating a partnership of local leaders focused on regenerating the town and 


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