Critics claim the document does not contain any new funding or “recycled” plans
The government unveiled its levelling-up white paper. It outlines 12 “missions” that aim to reduce the disparity between the richer and the poorer areas of the UK by 2030.

Boris Johnson’s flagship policy is “Levelling up” and the prime minister stated that it would “break the link between destiny and geography so that no matter where your location, you have the same opportunities”.

The white paper, which contains plans to improve education, broadband, and transport, was announced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It includes plans for “pride in Place” and other improvements. This is the first time that a government has put narrowing spatial economic disparities at its core.

The department stated that all 12 missions can be quantified and will be completed by 2030. However, one mission does have a 2035 target.

These 12 missions will be cross-government and cross–society, with all departments being tested to see if they can reduce the gap between the richer and the poorer areas of the country.

Public metrics will monitor progress and track the evolution of differences across UK regions. A government report will be published every year on progress, and a new Levelling Up Advisory Council is established to support analysis and provide advice.

The government has stated that it will change its approach to data collection and evaluation. The National Audit Office published a report today criticizing the government’s method of evaluating the levelling up plans.

The plan aims to give more power to the local government in England. This will allow each area to have “London-style” powers, which could include their mayor.

The government will establish a new, independent body to monitor the use of these powers. Its purpose is to “improve transparency in local government performance”.

The 12 missions

1. To increase productivity, pay and employment in all parts of the UK. Each area contains a city that is globally competitive and closes the gap between top-performing and bottom performing areas.

2. To increase investment in research and technology outside of the greater south-east by at least 40%, and at least one-third over the Spending Review period. With that additional funding from the government seeking to leverage at least twice the private sector investment over a long term to stimulate innovation.

3. Local public transport connectivity in the country should be comparable to London’s, with better services, simpler fares, and integrated ticketing.

4. Nationwide gigabit-capable broadband, 4G coverage in the UK, and 5G coverage for most of the population.

5. There will be a significant increase in primary school children who achieve the expected standard in maths, reading, and writing. This will translate to 90% of English children reaching the expected standard. The percentage of children who achieve the expected standard in the worst performing areas of the country will increase by more than a third.

6. To increase the number of people who successfully complete high-quality skills training across the UK. This will result in 200,000 more people successfully completing skills training each year in England. It will also be driven by 80,000 people taking courses that are the least skilled.

7. To reduce the gap between areas with high and low healthy life expectancy (HLE), and to increase HLE by 5 years by 2035.

8. Improvement of well-being across the UK, closing the gap between the top performing areas and other areas.

9. An increase in “pride” in place, such as people’s satisfaction in their local community and engagement in local culture. The gap between top-performing areas and other areas is closing.

10. Renters can now get a pathway to ownership, and the number of first-time home buyers is increasing. The number of undecent rented houses will drop by 50%, with the greatest improvements occurring in the areas that are least performing.

11. A decrease in homicide, violence and neighborhood crime with a special focus on the most affected areas.

12. Each part of England will be able to have one. It will include powers at the highest level of devolution, as well as a simplified funding arrangement.

Recycled plans and no new money

Johnson stated that the levelling up whitepaper is “the most ambitious, comprehensive plan of its kind this country has ever seen”.

However, the plans were criticized for not having enough funding and being called a “rebranding” of existing strategies.

According to Centre For Cities analysis Germany spent approximately PS1.7tr euro between 1990 and 2014. This compares to the UK’s PS11bn commitment over the next five year.

Alexander Rose, who was formerly a senior solicitor in Government Legal Department, called for the government’s announcement of catch-up funding. Gavin Barwell, former chief of staff at No.10, said that while the money is not sufficient, it is a step in right direction.

According to Centre For Cities analysis Germany spent approximately “PS1.7 trillion Euros between 1990 and 2014.” This compares to the UK’s commitment of PS11bn over five years.

Alexander Rose, who was formerly a senior solicitor in the government’s legal department, called for catch-up funding. Former No. Gavin Barwell, chief of staff at 10 said that the funding was insufficient, but it is a step in the right directions.

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy stated that the white paper contains “recycled and watered down ambitions”, pointing out that one of the best announcements was made in 2008 by Gordon Brown.

Darren Jones, chair of the Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy Committee, highlighted the similarities to the recently abandoned Industrial Strategy via a tweet.

The Industrial Strategy was scrapped by the government in March 2021. However, the “best elements” of the industrial strategy were incorporated into the government’s Plan for Growth.

This economic plan includes the levelling up agenda. It aims to support growth by significant investment in infrastructure and skills, innovation, and to pursue growth which benefits all parts of the UK. It also supports the government’s Global Britain vision and enables the transition towards net zero.

Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, revealed the white paper today. He said that the UK is an “unparalleled story of success” but that not everyone shares in its success.

“For many decades, too many communities were overlooked and undervalued. While some areas have experienced growth, others have fallen into a vicious cycle of decline. The UK has been like an aircraft that fires on one engine.

“Levelling up” and the white paper are about ending historical injustices and calling time on postcode lottery.

“This won’t be an easy task and it won’t happen overnight. But our 12 new national levelling-up missions will drive real change across towns and cities across the UK so that your location doesn’t determine how far you are able to go.