'A lack of schools and doctors, a lack of everything': Levelling up plan questioned

  • Video report by Elaine Willcox.

Knowsley has joined Southampton in receiving the very least in the country through the Government's new 'Levelling Up' plan.

The local authority is one of eight that are among the poorest in England but still receiving less than £10 per head from the four announced funds.

The long-promised plans that have been announced by the Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove are in place to close the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country.

However, some of the most affluent areas, such as Mid Bedfordshire have received amounts upwards of £90 per head.

Sarah Godenho is an organiser at Home Start - Knowsley, a voluntary organisation offering support to local families who are facing difficulty and have at least one child under the age of eleven.

She said "Knowsley is like a forgotten borough. There's a lack of schools, a lack of doctors, a lack of healthcare workers. There's a lack of everything".

Mums and babies at Home Start, Knowsley

Steph Curry recently moved to Knowsley from London . She has a daughter called Isabella. She said she was shocked to see the north-south divide first hand. She said: Looking at nurseries and childcare, it's quite difficult to see what the future is going to look like when Isabella is fifteen or twenty years old".

The government has promised better local transport, access to broadband and 5G as well shifting power from Whitehall to town halls and regional mayors.

Hannah McGarrigle is a teacher with a tenth month old daughter and believes she has seen more cuts than increases in provision. She said: "The provision isn't there and when my daughter gets to the age when she wants to start looking at sixth form - we may have to start looking at other areas to live."

Councillor Jayne Ashton, from Knowsley Borough Council said "If areas like Knowsley don't seem to qualify it calls into question the whole credibility of the policy. Government should govern for the whole of the country not just for those who vote for them and I think this Prime Minister and Michael Gove would do well to remember that".

Knowsley town centre

Defending his flagship plan, Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Minister said: "There are more powers for local leaders, for mayors and for strong leaders in counties and districts and there's also a framework that will hold us to account for that spending."

Michael Gove, Levelling Up Secretary

Mr Gove also outlined other funding pledges, including:

  • £5bn in bus services and active travel

  • £1.8bn invested in new housing infrastructure, turning brownfield land into projects across the country

  • £230m extra in grassroots football

  • £30m allocated to improving parks and urban green spaces

  • An extra £560m in activities for young people

  • An additional £150m in a safer streets fund

The government says it is changing the economic model to level up Northern towns and cities but with child mortality rising faster on Merseyside than anywhere else, there is little time to spare.