Last week, I hosted Shadow Cabinet member Bridget Phillipson in our constituency. Bridget is Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, working on new economic and tax policies to bring fairness and prosperity to our country.

Lockdown meant the visit was virtual otherwise we would have been out in our towns listening to residents’ concerns and ambitions.

On Monday, government minister Nadhim Zahawi said that two of our towns, Maryport and Cockermouth, were in the North East and Yorkshire. Mr Zahawi is one of Parliament’s richest MPs, getting big fees from an oil company until becoming a minister. Bridget Phillipson is a Gateshead lass who worked in a women’s refuge before being elected in the North East. She knows where Cumbria is. She understands the pressures people face when money’s tight and jobs disappear from communities like ours. She understands that West Cumbria’s economy needs serious investment.

She also understands that hard times mean a proper safety net is essential. She understands that slashing £20 off Universal Credit will hit the poorest towns hardest, holding back economic recovery. Yet Mr Zahawi and his MP colleague Mark Jenkinson, who earn £1,500 a week as MPs plus expenses, didn’t ‘level up’ by cancelling the cut in Universal Credit from £95 a week to £75 in Monday’s Parliamentary vote.

Without tackling poverty, which comes in many guises in ‘left behind’ places, ‘levelling up’ is nothing more than another hollow slogan. Austerity stripped vast amounts out of local councils but Allerdale’s Labour administration adopted a Business Growth Plan in 2016. Then in 2018 they set out the Maryport Delivery Plan. The funding now going into improvements in Maryport is welcome. But towns are made to compete with each other for limited centrally controlled money.

The last Labour government’s Regional Development Agency, driving much bigger investments, was abolished long ago by the Tories. The government has stalled work on Cumbria’s new Industrial Strategy and has cut millions from transport for the North’s budget including taking £20 million from Northern Powerhouse Rail and giving it to HS2 in the South of England.

‘Levelling up’ is on a fast track to nowhere with Boris Johnson and Mark Jenkinson. Real vision and commitment, not slogans, are needed. The UK’s economy has slumped, the worst affected by the pandemic of the world’s seven richest nations. Economic policy is at the heart of Labour’s plans for the future. Better paid jobs, fairness and excellent public services are the top priorities. We are determined to ensure our people and places share fully in our national wealth. We have the ear of the Shadow Cabinet and West Cumbria’s voice is being heard loud and clear by the next Labour government.