Chloe Smith vows social mobility progress will continue

Chloe Smith MP. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Chloe Smith MP. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A key member of the team bidding to drive social mobility in Norwich has vowed the mass resignation of the government body responsible will not halt progress.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said the decision of the Social Mobility Commission members to quit en masse in protest at a perceived lack of action from government will not hamper progress locally.

Commission chairman and former minister Alan Milburn handed his resignation to Theresa May at the weekend saying: 'I have little hope of the current government making the progress I believe is necessary to bring about a fairer Britain.'

He was joined by former South West Norfolk MP Gillian Shephard.

But Ms Smith is adamant enough has been done in the city to ensure improvements continue. Back in 2016 the Commission rated the chances of Norwich's young people to be the second worst in the UK but the most recent report has seen that improve to 31st.

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Following the 2016 index the city was identified as one of 12 areas for investment and the Norwich Opportunity Area Initiative was founded.

'I don't see there being a major impact from this board's resignations on the work that is ongoing in Norwich,' Ms Smith said. 'I am a fan of the work of the Social Mobility Commission and obviously it has been particularly good to have a local representative in Baroness Shephard.

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'But, as was made clear in parliament by the minister responsible, this is actually now just a question of making fresh appointments.

'The Opportunity Area programme is now established and I see no impact on that. That in itself was the right response to the 2016 findings. The government is doing the right thing and that work will carry on.

'We also have seen progress for Norwich if you compare the 2016 index to the recent one. We have made headway and that is in part due to the work that has been done locally.

'It is simply not true that there is no progress in Norwich. The Opportunity Area programme is working here in Norwich. I do think we have every prospect of carrying on the great work that we have begun here in Norwich.'

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