AN MP has criticised the government’s Levelling Up White paper for including ‘precious little’ for Cumbria.

Tim Farron questioned Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Michael Gove in Parliament today, after he laid out the government’s plans to close the gap between poor and rich parts of the country.

Mr Farron believes rural communities in the North ‘feel forgotten and taken for granted’.

“I am really concerned that there is very little concern in this document when it comes to levelling up the rural parts of our country,” he said.

“In Cumbria we have three-hour round trips for cancer treatment, a threat to our local A&E department, and the fact that our villages and communities are being cleared by second homes and Airbnb.

“I would be delighted to work with the Secretary of State, constructively and I would love it if he would agree to meet with me so we could talk about some answers to the housing catastrophe not just Cumbria but the rest of rural Britain.”

In response Mr Gove said: “I have to say I agree with almost everything that the honourable gentleman said.

“Firstly, it is important that we focus on rural poverty.

“Secondly, that there are unique issues in Cumbria. Local government reorganisation – the creation of a new local authority in Cumberland and a new one in Westmorland with Barrow – will contribute to making sure we have a proper focus on it, but we need to go further.

“He’s also right actually that the issues of second homes and the impact that it has on local economies is a complex one. We’re not in the right place yet and I do want to work with him and other colleagues to address it.”

The White Paper describes the goals as Mr Gove’s "missions" for the remainder of the decade.

The targets for 2030 are:

- Pay, employment and productivity will have risen in all parts of the UK, with each area containing a "globally competitive" city.

- Domestic public investment in research and development outside the "greater South East" of England will increase by at least 40 per cent.

- Local public transport across the country will be "significantly closer" to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.

- The UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.

- Some 90 per cent of primary school children in England will have achieved the expected standards in reading, writing and maths, with the percentage meeting those aims in the worst-performing areas to have increased by a third.

- Some 200,000 more people in England will complete "high quality skills training" annually, including 80,000 in the lowest-skilled parts of the country.

- The gap in healthy life expectancy (HLE) between the highest and lowest areas will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years.

- There will be improved "well-being" in all parts of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and lowest performing areas closing.

- All parts of the UK will have improved "pride in place", assessed by measures such as people's satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community.

- People renting their homes will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas. The number of "non-decent" rented homes will have fallen by 50%.

- Homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas.

- Every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.