County launches £10million 'levelling up' plan to support communities

Colchester town centre

Colchester is one of the target areas for the levelling up project - Credit: JAMIE NIBLOCK

A £10million fund has been launched to regenerate parts of Essex in a new "levelling up" project.

Essex County Council will be paying particular attention to major towns like Colchester, and coastal areas – especially Tendring – as part of its plans.

The aim is to improve the life chances of the county’s most disadvantaged people and follows a framework of 14 ‘levelling up goals’ drawn up by Justine Greening, the UK’s former secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities.

She now chairs Levelling Up Goals planning how communities and individuals can be empowered out of poverty.

Education Secretary Justine Greening visiting Suffolk New College. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Former education secretary Justine Greening helped launch the plan - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The £10m earmarked for Levelling Up is part of a £45m funding pot allocated for the council’s Everyone’s Essex plan – 20 commitments based on the economy, environment, children and families and promoting health, care and wellbeing.

A council spokesman said: “Having a big impact through this agenda isn’t just about, or proportionate to, the money – it’s about encouraging wider community participation and involvement.”

Ms Greening joined ECC’s deputy leader Louise McKinlay for the launch of the council’s own levelling up white paper on January 6.

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She said: “It starts with strong foundations in early years and then successful schools years.

“And the big change which we can really help happen across the county is to get employers to realise that if they can change how they work they can connect a lot more people with opportunities. And they can help them understand what opportunities are out there.

“It is very hard to aim for opportunities when you don’t know they exist.

“And that can be quite an easy thing to change if there is enough focus on it."

There are more than 123,000 people in Essex, 40,000 of whom are children, that live in areas that are in the 20 per cent most deprived of the whole UK.

Councillor McKinlay said: “For me it’s about starting well. So those formative years with a stable and secure family background and being in a place where you can grow up safe and secure is really fundamental to life chances.

“And if you are ready for school again that maps your life chances in terms of having how you will get on.

“But of course it can’t end there. Even if you come from a happy stable background and you are ready for school at five, if you haven’t got good housing and haven’t got success around you and job opportunities that you can physically get to even, then even if you can academically attain to get there again your chances are limited."

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