Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen calls for 'Levelling Up' pledge from next Conservative Party leader

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has called on Conservative MPs hoping to be the party’s next leader and Prime Minister to fully commit to “levelling up” local communities when taking on the top job.

Ben Houchen has outlined a five-point Levelling Up Pledge that he is urging all candidates to sign in order to show “unwavering support” for levelling up, ahead of the leadership contest.

The pledge includes a commitment to keep the Ministry for the Department for Levelling Up with a Cabinet-level Secretary of State, reform the Treasury Green Book evaluation process and a commitment by the candidates to the full construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

Writing to all declared candidates on Monday, July 11, Mayor Houchen said: “In recent months under the leadership of the current Prime Minister we have seen huge investment into areas that have been forgotten by previous Governments of all colours. I would like to think that whatever anybody’s politics, this can be seen as a hugely positive thing.”

The Tory leadership contest was sparked on Thursday, July 7 after Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister, saying he would stay in post until a new leader is elected.

MPs so far confirmed to be running for the top job include Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Nadhim Zahawi, Grant Shapps, Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch, with more expected to announce their intentions in the coming days.

Other points outlined by Mayor Houchen in the pledge include a commitment to work on a devolution of powers with regional mayors and devolving tax from Whitehall to elected Mayoral regions, giving them real fiscal responsibility.

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Mayor Houchen added: “In 2019, voters across the north put their faith in Boris Johnson and the Conservatives because he promised to invest and level up their towns, providing significant funding for places like Redcar, Dewsbury, Blackpool and Bury.

“Generations of families in these towns had never considered voting for us before the 2019 general election and we cannot ignore these voters.

“They put their trust in us for the first time to deliver for their communities, communities that until that point had been ignored by governments of all stripes.”

In a 2021 by-election, voters in Hartlepool elected Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer to become the town’s MP.