It is not uncommon for people to ask me why I decided to go into politics. I often reply that madness must have played a part! Joking aside, I always offer the same answer, that you can make a real and long-lasting difference at a local and national level.
The successes may come infrequently, they may be small or big, but you can at least be comforted that in some manner or fashion, you have changed things for the better.
Some campaigns run longer than others, and some result in constant pushbacks and failures, only to be turned around at the last moment. This is exactly what has happened with my campaign to see Brixham and Paignton recognised in the Levelling Up Fund.
The Levelling Up Fund provides £4.8 billion to communities across the country to support local projects and to help attract investment, drive growth and provide new opportunities. It has been designed to select genuine local priorities by engaging with stakeholders at all levels, to ensure money is being spent in the best way possible.
Rounds One and Two of the Levelling Up Fund saw our bid to invest in Brixham Quay and Torbay Business Park rejected. With £1 billion left to spend in the third round, it was always going to be a huge challenge to secure recognition and funding for these worthwhile projects.
Both Brixham Quay and Torbay Business Park offer huge potential to help level up our coastal communities. Brixham Quay has made Brixham fish market the most profitable fishing port in England and Wales. Since 2016 every year has seen record levels of landings and sales. Torbay Business Park has helped cultivate one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in the UK – the photonics industry. Together this bid entitled “Fish and Chips” has promoted our corner of the United Kingdom and demonstrated the huge potential that sits within old and new sectors.
After the disappointment of Rounds One and Two, it might have been easy to give up. However, politics if anything is the art of the possible and the attainable. Since those setbacks I have been working endlessly to promote our bid to the UK Government and to ensure they recognise the value for money these initiatives offer, and the opportunities they present to those who live and work across the area.
The result? Well, this week the Department of Levelling Up announced the hard work has paid off, and Brixham Quay will be receiving over £16m and Torbay Business Park over £8m. This success in the Levelling Up Fund will also complement our success with the £20m given to Torbay Authority through the Levelling Up Partnership scheme.
No one can argue that Brixham, Paignton or Torquay has been overlooked by myself, Kevin Foster or the Government. We have worked together, united by the desire to see real investment spent across the Bay to help regenerate, attract investment and create long-term jobs for the future. Together we have secured just over £100m of grants and investment into our high streets, towns, railways and regeneration projects.
Politics can be infuriating, despairing, depressing but ultimately it remains the place in which inch-by-inch you can fight for your constituency and deliver incredible results that will stand the test of time. I have always believed that being a strong local voice in Westminster is better than being a Westminster voice in the West Country and that if people are put before politics, you can deliver projects such as this, that will sustain our reputation as a high-tech centre for excellence and England and Wales’s most valuable fishing port.