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Increasing 5G coverage won't help 'level-up' people who are struggling says Christian Foodbank manager

by Donna Birrell

A plan - which aims to close the gap between rich and poor parts of the UK - has been set out by the government.

The Secretary for Levelling Up, Michael Gove has admitted people in some areas have been "overlooked and undervalued" by Westminster for years.

The plans include increasing pay, employment and productivity across the UK, improving literacy and numeracy in the most disadvantaged parts of the country and narrowing the gap of life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas.  

Simon Fann is manager of Truro Foodbank in Cornwall, which is one of the poorest areas of the UK. He tells Premier levelling up won't be effective unless low wages are addressed.

"All the talk of levelling up, the start point for Cornwall is, unless you're on a national pay structure, it's about 23% less pay. But we have higher water bills of anybody because of the coastal areas and  there's all the things going on with utility bills. So the financial pressure comes from both sides - how much your income is, and what you've got to pay out.

"At the Trussell trust, we have a voucher system, which means we can track the main reasons why people are referred to us. In our situation, 66% of the vouchers that are issued by agencies for people have low income as the main reason. So that's the answer right there. We've got to know more about what low income means and why it is there." 

" The plans unveiled today also include creating more first-time homebuyers in all areas and halving the number of "non-decent rented homes" .

Simon Fann says solving the housing crisis must be a priority and highlights a local problem :

"Because Cornwall is a holiday destination, more people put their places up to Airbnb than to rent. There are around 10,000 Airbnb listings in the county and 69 places to rent, so the housing and rental costs are massive and prohibitive."

Levelling -up will also see 5G mobile data coverage for the "large majority" of households. But Simon Fann says this will mean little to households who are struggling.

"lt's not necessarily whether it's 4g or 5g, it's the fact that to make an application for funds that might be available to help people, there is an expectation that everyone's got some kind of a smartphone or device that can do that. If you haven't, then you are at a disadvantage because you can't even make an application for help in the first place.

"So improving connectivity might be something from a business point of view that might help but if I'm thinking about our food bank customers, it's got to be a little bit more basic than that in terms of connectivity or access to funds that might be able to assist them."

The government says the Levelling Up strategy will be implemented by 2030 and Michael Gove says it will "shift both money and power into the hands of working people."

Labour has criticised the plans, saying they contain no new money and few new ideas. 

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