A CALL has been made to the Government not to ‘leave Southampton behind’ as part of the levelling up agenda.

Southampton Itchen MP, Royston Smith, has urged the Government not to ‘leave Southampton behind’, highlighting poverty and industrial decline in the city.

The UK Government has pledged its commitment to levelling up towns and cities across the UK, investing in them, regenerating high streets, getting more people into work, and improving transport links.

Now, Mr Smith has urged the Government to make sure Southampton enjoys investment too and is not left behind while other towns and cities ‘level up’.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, he said: “Southampton has many strengths: it has historic medieval walls and one of the busiest ports in the country; it is home to the iconic Spitfire; and it is from Southampton that the pilgrim fathers set sail to the new world more than 400 years ago.

“The Port of Southampton and Carnival cruises are large private sector employers, and we benefit from a healthy public sector too, with two world class universities, the National Oceanography Centre, a renowned specialist hospital and a Premier League football club.

“On the face of it, it all sounds rosy, but if we scratch beneath the surface, we see a different picture. The city and my Southampton, Itchen constituency have some of the most deprived wards in the country.

“We have too many children in care, our schools underperform, and we have generations in the same family who have never worked. The city had a proud shipbuilding and aviation heritage. It produced the famous Ford Transit van until 2013 and was home to Pirelli Cables and British American Tobacco. Those blue-collar jobs have mostly all gone; all too frequently, they have been replaced with jobs in retail, hospitality and leisure, with few, if any, prospects, no job security and notoriously low pay.

“As the Government look north to the red wall seats so dreadfully served by Labour for decades, they must remember to look south to those cities that fared little better from years of Labour representation. Levelling up is not about geography; it is about opportunity. If we do not understand that, we are likely to sleepwalk into a situation in which the rush to level up north will leave the south as left behind as it always was. We simply cannot allow that to happen”, Mr Smith concluded.