Prime Minister Liz Truss: Tackling regional inequalities is 'a huge priority for me'

The Prime Minister has told ITV News Tyne Tees that helping regions like the North East catch up with other parts of the country is "a huge priority" for her.

On Monday morning, the Chancellor announced a u-turn on the government's controversial plan to scrap the 45p income tax rate for the highest earners.

Liz Truss spoke to Political Correspondent, Tom Sheldrick, on Sunday evening at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

In the interview, she said that the government's "tax package is... about having lower taxes".

"We've had the highest taxes we've had in 70 years. We need to get the economy going and we need to take those steps," said Ms Truss.

On the cost of living, the Prime Minister said she understands people are struggling and the government has acted "to make sure that families are paying no more than an average of £2,500" a year on energy bills.

She added that "a decision has not yet been made" on whether benefits will be increased in line with inflation, but the most vulnerable households are getting cost of living support payments of up to £1,200.

A study for the End Child Poverty Coalition, published this summer, found 38% of children in the North East are living in poverty, the highest proportion of any part of the country.

Ms Truss told us, "The way I want to avoid poverty is through economic growth so that not only we can afford good public services, but also people are able to earn higher wages, which is the best way of dealing with poverty."

Seven new Conservative MPs were elected in the North East at the 2019 general election, with Boris Johnson promising to 'level up' prosperity around the country.

Liz Truss does not use that slogan regularly, but, asked about her commitment to tackling regional inequalities, she replied, "It's a huge priority for me and that's why we're setting up new investment zones that have lower taxes, simpler rules so we can attract investment and enterprise right across the country."

In the mini-budget 10 days ago, the government said it was in discussion with the councils and combined authorities in the North of Tyne, North Yorkshire, Sunderland and the Tees Valley about potentially establishing new 'Investment Zones', with lower taxes and looser planning rules to try to spark economic growth.

In an interview last Thursday, Ms Truss admitted she wasn't fully aware of the issues surrounding the deaths of thousands of shellfish on the North East and North Yorkshire coastline.

On Sunday, she said, "I have spoken about this with my colleagues. My understanding is, an investigation has taken place and it's likely that this was caused through natural causes... I am very focused on making sure we protect our environment, we protect our important species."

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