County councils have warned that a 'narrow and simplistic focus' in the levelling-up agenda risks England’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
New analysis from the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that over 1,000 new people a day are claiming out of work benefits in county areas.
This number of people has risen by 123% since March 2020, compared to a rise of 84% in Northern towns and cities.
It also found that 36 country areas have witnessed the fastest growth in furloughed employees during the past six months, with almost 1.5 million people in county areas now currently on furlough.
The CCN has called on the Government to ensure that their levelling up agenda does not bypass county areas, and for county authorities to be given the same devolved powers and budgets on skills and adult employment as metro mayors.
Cllr Barry Lewis, economic growth spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said: 'To date, there has been an understandable focus on levelling-up Northern towns, but an overly narrow and simplistic focus which bypasses rural and shire counties will hamper the country’s economic recovery. This analysis shows that levelling up needs to happen right across all four corners of England.
'To ensure county areas don’t become left-behind communities, we are urging the Government to not forget about these places when it comes to the distributing resources as part of levelling-up. In addition, county authorities should be given the powers and resource to lead economic recovery efforts locally, in recognition that each county area will have individual solutions.'
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