Boris Johnson makes pledges for Blackpool in resort visit

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to support investment in skills and jobs in Blackpool as part of the Government’s Levelling Up programme during a whistle stop trip to the resort on Thursday.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:05 pm

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

After being given a tour of the £28m new conference centre which is due to host the Conservative Party Spring Conference in March, he branded the facilities ‘stunning’.

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

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in the Empress Ballroom

“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.”

That project benefitted from almost £18m of government cash, mainly from the Growth Deal, but Blackpool Council’s bid for £20m from the Levelling Up Fund was rejected in Novermber.

It included £4m to upgrade convention space within the Winter Gardens, £7m towards refurbishing the former Abingdon Street Post Office to become an upmarket hotel and £9m for town centre road improvements to ease congestion.

Mr Johnson said he could not comment on why that bid failed, but said the Government had put money into the resort including the £39m Town Deal, which was the biggest one handed out.

Boris Johnson with Blackpool South MP Scott Benton in the new Winter Gardens Conference Centre

He said: “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.”

Mr Johnson 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.”

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