67% of people living in northern England say they are not confident that the government will deliver on its promise to 'level up' the underperforming areas of the economy where they live, a poll for ITV News has found.
When Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, he said his government would "level up across Britain with higher wages, and a higher living wage, and higher productivity" saying it was time "we unleashed the productive power not just of London and the South East" but all parts of the UK.
He reiterated his promise to "unite and level up" the country after the Conservatives' landslide General Election victory in December, when the party won seats in the north of England and Midlands traditionally held by Labour - the so-called 'red wall'.
But the poll by Savanta ComRes for ITV News found that among those surveyed in northern England, two thirds are not confident the government will deliver on its 'levelling up' pledge. This compares to 49% of those surveyed in the Midlands.
The poll was commissioned as part of a special week of coverage on ITV Regional News in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales, called Levelling Up, which is looking at the state of economy, health and education in their communities.
The survey also asked people living in northern England and the Midlands how they feel coronavirus has affected their local area, health and children's education.
What else did the survey find?
32% of people in the North and Midlands are satisfied with Boris Johnson's handling of the pandemic
72% say coronavirus has had a negative impact on their local economy and high street
33% say their personal finances have worsened since the start of the outbreak
56% think the pandemic will have a negative impact on the prospects of the next generation
40% of people in northern England and the Midlands think where they live is being 'left behind
The poll's findings come as 40 Conservative MPs launch a 'Levelling Up Taskforce' on Monday. It is calling on the government to set three tests on whether it is 'levelling up' in poorer parts of the UK, including improving earnings and reducing unemployment in those areas.
"The coronavirus crisis has only made the case for levelling up stronger so we can get the economy moving in areas that are less well off. Our new Taskforce will be spearheading this vital agenda", said Neil O'Brien, MP for Harborough in Leicestershire.
Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said: “There is a lot of untapped potential in parts of our country that have felt left behind for a long time. Now is the time to really hammer forward with the levelling up agenda.”What does the Government say?Responding to the poll, a Government spokesperson told ITV News: "The entire force of government continues in its commitment to building back better, levelling up our regions and all four corners of the United Kingdom. This includes through schemes such Kickstart which will create hundreds of thousands of new fully subsidised jobs for young people all over the country.
“The Government has been working tirelessly to battle against coronavirus, delivering a strategy designed to protect our NHS and save lives.
"Our response has ensured that the NHS has been given all the support it needs so that everyone requiring treatment has received it, as well as providing vital support to businesses and reassurance to workers.”
In Wales, a separate poll carried out for ITV Wales found 72% of people there said they are not confident that the UK Government will deliver on its agenda to level up their areas. You can read more about that poll here.
Watch our Levelling Up coverage on your local ITV News programme in northern England, the Midlands and Wales at 6pm on the 7th, 8th and 9th September.
Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,020 UK adults who live in the ITV regions of Granada, Tyne Tees, Yorkshire and Central, aged 18+ online between 21 and 28 August. Data has been weighted to be representative of those regions combined by age, gender, and region.