Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton Richard Foord writes for the Midweek Herald.

Levelling-up was supposed to be a flagship government initiative. Many of us supposed that it was aimed at addressing years of regional inequality and under-investment in areas like the West Country. Yet it has been revealed recently to be little more than a hollow slogan.

The Conservative Government’s repeated claims to be levelling-up have not extended to our coastal communities. Repeated bids for funding to support initiatives in Seaton and Axminster have been flat-out rejected, leaving our towns and villages to watch as funding flows instead into Conservative target seats in the Midlands and the North of England.

This has been reflected by the fact that the South West is near the bottom of the league table for levelling-up funding doled-out. For example, in the first round of levelling-up funding, the total awarded to the South West amounted to just £23 per person. This isn’t even enough for a single train ticket from Honiton to Plymouth; a trivial amount compared to that received by other regions of the UK.

Earlier this month I hosted a debate in Parliament about how the Government could better support coastal communities here in East Devon. During the debate, the Minister went into flowery rhetorical flourishes to suggest that East Devon should be grateful.

When I am speaking to residents in our villages and towns, I struggle to find a single person who can think of a successful levelling up project. Let alone point to one that has made their lives better. It is galling that instead, we’ve seen Ministers sign off ridiculous projects like £50,000 provided to the North West region for stone chess tables. Much as I enjoy a game of chess, it is hardly going to set regional enterprise alight outside of London!

There has in fact only been one successful bid in East Devon: funding for Dinan Way, in Exmouth. This limited success is undermined by the fact that we still do not know what will happen to the money that had been allocated for the now-mothballed Exmouth Gateway project.

The Conservatives have seen fit to slash Council budgets by £10 billion in the past decade. They have left Councils with little choice but to make repeated cuts to frontline services. The cut to Council budgets is more than twice the total sum made available for so-called ‘levelling-up’. The effect is that we see our roads become more crater-filled than the moon.

There are many examples of where a little funding for local government would stimulate private sector investment. Take hiring more planning officers to illustrate – a little money invested in addressing the backlog in planning applications would pay dividends in what our private sector here could achieve.

To protect and sustain our coastal communities, we need to see sustained investment from central Government. We need this not just in token projects. And we certainly don’t need more of the ‘jam tomorrow’ that we have seen from this Conservative Government.