Boris Johnson makes levelling up vow as he hails 'progress' in West Midlands

Boris Johnson said this month's local elections proved his party was continuing to progress in the West Midlands as he vowed to support people through the cost of living crisis.

Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries meet baton bearers and volunteers during a visit to Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.
Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries meet baton bearers and volunteers during a visit to Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

While the Tories struggled nationally in last week's polls, it was a different story across the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire, with the party holding firm and gaining seats in places including Walsall and Cannock Chase.

It comes after historic gains in 2021, when the Conservatives took more than 30 seats across the region.

Speaking during a visit to Birmingham, the PM conceded his Government had a "massive job to do" to get the country back on track after Covid.

He said: "People can see the ambition of what the Government is trying to do and I think most fair minded commentators would say looking back on those mid-term elections that the principal party of opposition did not make anything like the gains they were expected to – or indeed needed to – make to have a chance of forming a government."

He described the results – which saw the Tories lose hundreds of council seats – as "mixed" overall, but said in areas such as the West Midlands his party was "continuing to make progress".

"We've got a massive job to do," the PM added. "We've come through a Covid pandemic but we've now got to deal with the inflationary pressures, particularly with energy, and we've got to keep levelling up.

"Everyone in government is focused on the cost of living, but we also know we have to keep going with all the things we promised to do in 2019.

"That is what people are looking for. They're looking for change from the investments in infrastructure, in education and in technology, all the things we are doing to transform people's lives."

Mr Johnson said his Government would do all it could to help people through the cost of living crisis.

He said he was concerned that too many eligible people were not taking advantage of available support – such as the council tax rebate, pension credit and tax free childcare – and encouraged "more take-up".

The PM added: "As for the way forward for the West Midlands, well this is an incredible part of the country.

"It's got strong job creation and that is the way forward. We have got a price bulge in energy that is driving the inflation spike and we know we've got to help people through that.

"We will have to keep being as compassionate and as genius as possible to help people in the short term.

"We also have to fix the underlying issue of why the UK is so dependant on getting its electricity piped in from France. Thirty per cent of our diesel comes from Russia. That's crazy and has to change.

"You need to divide up the problem by looking at the short term impact on families and budgets and doing everything you can to help people, but then you have to make sure you address the underlying issues."

Boris Johnson speaks with Team England track and field team leader Kelly Sotherton during a visit to Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

Mr Johnson was in the region to cast his eye over the preparations for the Commonwealth Games later this year.

And speaking during a visit to the Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, he said the event could have a "transformative" effect on the region in the same way the 2012 Olympics did for London.

"I do believe that sensible and targeted investment can make a big difference," the PM said.

"Remember what happened in London post 2012 after those big games in the East End. Those boroughs went gangbusters and property prices in Waltham Forest and Hackney, they were the fastest growing in London by a long way.

"It was transformational."

Mr Johnson said the same level of impact could be had with "good transport investment", such as the new railway station in Perry Barr, and with new attractions such as the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

"I believe strongly that tactical investments can drive levelling up and drive further growth," he added.

"These games have already produced 35,000 jobs in the West Midlands.

"You can already feel the excitement here and you can feel people's pride. And that is priceless."

The PM would not be drawn on the latest round of police fines over Downing Street lockdown gatherings, saying only that he would wait until the completion of the investigation before commenting.

He was also asked if he was considering bringing in a windfall tax on energy companies to fund discounts on energy bills.

Mr Johnson said: "We're going to do as much as we possibly can to help people with the cost of living.

"I have got to tell you I'm not attracted to big new taxes on business. We want businesses to be investing and driving jobs.

"Investment in energy supply is of vast importance, but if that investment isn't forthcoming then we'll have to see."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News