By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The UK government should invest more money into east Kent, say councillors.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to invest billions of pounds of cash to ‘level up’ the UK during the 2020s, providing higher paid jobs and better living standards.
The aim is to reduce the social and economic inequalities faced across the UK, moving more cash from London and south east England to the north east and west.
National figures show that the south east of England, excluding London, generated GDP of around £327billion in 2019 compared to £64billion in the north east.
However, east Kent councillors say there are parts of the county which are “incredibly deprived” and require more financial support.
Broadstairs county councillor Rosalind Binks (Con) said she was “filled with dread” over the withdrawal of money from the south east to other parts of England.
She said: “It does nothing for the residents of my particular division, yet we are surrounded by deprived areas.
“We are sitting watching money be thrown around on some projects which are not likely to produce the required result.”
Her comments were made in front of a panel of councillors and senior officers at County Hall, Maidstone.
Levelling Up seeks to change government focus to forgotten communities, including increasing public investment by at least 40% in the south west, north, Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland by 2030.
Major projects include upgrading the UK’s local public transport systems to match London standards; ensure the large majority of country gains access to 5G broadband and remove illiteracy for primary school leavers.
In Kent, there will be “new targets” to reduce regional disparities, such as more affluent areas of Sevenoaks to the poorer locations in Thanet.
Folkestone county councillor Jackie Meade (Lab) warned her residents faced poverty by describing her ward as “incredibly deprived”.
She said: “What can we do to address the fact we are losing so much money from the south east.
“It seems to me that because we are living in the south east everyone thinks we live in Clover, when we are living in anything but that.”
She added: “How do we appeal that places which obviously have a need are completely overlooked?”
It was suggested more investment be put into the reinstatement of Manston Airport in Ramsgate, described as “economically productive” for east Kent.
Cllr Binks said: “Something that would be most productive economically for Thanet and possibly Dover would be to have an airport there.
“Surely, that is something they should throw all their support behind.”
Ministers and senior civil servants will come to visit Kent and examine local plans soon.