Boris pledges to ‘level up’ on whistle stop tour of Blackpool

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The Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Blackpool Transport Tram Depot to mark the launch of the Levelling Up White Paper. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been in Blackpool today (Thursday) enjoying a whistle stop tour of the seaside town.

The PM’s visit comes after plans were announced yesterday to ‘level up’ the country and tackle the inequalities faced across the UK.

Together with Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, the Prime Minister visited the new Winter Gardens Conference Centre and the Empress Ballroom, the tram depot at Starr Gate and Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; Minister for Intergovernmental Relations Michael Gove visit Blackpool Transport Tram Depot to mark the launch of the Levelling Up White Paper. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

After the PM’s tour of the new £28 million conference centre which is due to host the Conservative Party Conference in March, the PM said:

“This is the scene of many great speeches by famous prime ministers in the past from Churchill to Thatcher.

“It’s great to see it in such fantastic shape, I think it’s brilliant. I congratulate the Winter Gardens on its investment. I think it’s going to pay off handsomely and we look forward to coming back to Blackpool as fast as possible.”

The Winter Gardens project benefitted from almost £18 million of government investment and included £4 million to upgrade the convention space within the Winter Gardens, £7 million towards refurbishing the former Abingdon Street Post Office to become an upmarket hotel and £9 million for town centre road improvements to ease congestion.

Mr Johnson continued:

“We’re putting money into the local tram scheme – £22m so it can go all the way down the Prom from Blackpool North.

“Blackpool will be one of 55 education investment areas under the Levelling Up programme so we can make sure we retain and train up the best teachers in the country here in Blackpool, and keep them in Blackpool.

“We are going to be moving civil service jobs to Blackpool with a DWP hub at the Talbot Gateway.

“We are putting millions of pounds into all sorts of regeneration and the very builidng we are in benefitted from the Towns Fund.

“But the point of it is to drive private sector growth. If you look at the tram scheme, that helps tourism which helps drive more jobs, perhaps 4,000 new jobs.

“If you invest in skills and education in the area then that will make this whole area even more attractive for businesses as a place to come and look at what we are doing.

“You’ve got BAe not far away in Fylde and other big companies including nuclear fuels. It’s all about getting the private sector to see the genius and talent of the area.”

The Prime Minister also said improvements also had to be made in things like keeping the streets safer, and said Blackpool had been one of the first places to adopt the Project Adder initiative to break up county lines drug dealing.

He added:

“You have safer streets, you have better schools, better transport infrastructure – you will drive jobs and growth. That’s what levelling up is all about.”

When asked about rising prices by local radio station Blackpool FreeRadio, the Prime Minister explained:

“I just want to say to everybody that I really understand how tough it is and the impact of this spike in energy prices.

“This is driven by inflation around the world, particularly in the price of gas, and that’s because the world economy has been waking up post-Covid. Places like China have been sucking in huge amounts of gas. The price is global.

“First of all we have got to fix our supply, so that we have security of energy supply here in the UK. There’s much more potential across the North West to put in more renewables. We have also got to put in more nuclear and we have to have a sustainable long-term energy plan.

“We didn’t make those investments that we should have done in the last 20 or 30 years, so now is the time to make them investments for the future, so people know that they’re going to get the energy they need at costs that are affordable. What we also need to do is make sure people are in high wage, high skill jobs. One of the best things about the economy recovery at the moment is the sheer number of high wage jobs we’re creating.”

The Prime Minister’s trip is ahead of the Conservative Party’s spring conference which returns to Blackpool next month. The conference is due to be held on the 18th and 19th March at the Winter Gardens.

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