Former “red wall” seats in Midlands and North demand action on climate

New survey evidence shows overwhelming demand across the former “Red Wall” seats for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take firm action on the climate emergency in this week’s budget. With floods still battering Britain, 84% of respondents in former red wall constituencies – seats in the Midlands and North that the Conservatives gained from Labour in the 2019 general election – believe it is important that the Chancellor announces substantial investment to support measures to prepare for the impact of climate change. And in a clear sign that former Labour areas want the government to make good on its promises to “level up” the country, 76% want more powers and resources to be given to local councils in the North and Midlands to deal with the climate emergency.

But research from Survation on behalf of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies has found that there is widespread disapproval in former red wall seats for how the Johnson government has responded so far, with 75% of respondents agreeing that the “UK could have been better prepared for the recent floods.” As the Chancellor weighs up potential new tax rises for the wealthy, 70% of respondents in the former red wall constituencies want the costs of climate change to be borne by the whole country.

With national and local government at loggerheads about how climate policy should be funded, the research will boost the case made last week by a cross-party coalition of mayors and council leaders for devolved administrations to be given more resources to develop local climate plans.

For voters across the whole of the North and Midlands, the survey found:

  • Support for more resources and funding for action on climate change is spread across all parties. 87% of 2019 general election Conservative voters, 90% of Labour voters, 94% of Lib Dem voters and 76% of Brexit Party voters said it is important that the upcoming budget includes “substantial investment to support measures to prepare for the impact of climate change”.
  • 69% of Conservative voters and 75% of all people surveyed believe that the UK could have been better prepared for the floods.
  • 78% of Conservative voters want the costs of climate change to be carried by the whole country, more than the average of 72% across the Midlands and North.

75% want the government to deliver more financial support to local authorities to help deal with the impact of climate change and make the economy less reliant on fossil fuels.

On the last measure, the polling found that support for funds for local authorities to take on more interventionist measures are consistent across demographic lines such as age, sex and region.

Funding for local government to tackle climate emergency has become a hotly contested issue, with recent reports that the majority of local authorities are concerned about how they will raise revenue to pay for it.

Commenting on the results, Centre for Local Economic Strategies’ Chief Executive Neil McInroy said:

These results show strong public support for more robust interventions to protect communities from the effects of the climate emergency and ensure a just transition to more sustainable local economies. The government should take note that the public want their local authorities to take a more active role in this process.

“Rather than handicapping localities with ongoing austerity and reduced powers, national government must work with metro mayors and local authority leaders to ensure that localities have the fair financial and devolution settlement they need to achieve this. If the government is serious about ‘levelling up’ the country, it must get serious about a rapid climate transition through a Green New Deal.”