Friday, July 30, 2021

Boris Johnson’s levelling-up drive risks becoming an ‘everything and nothing policy’, MPs warn

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Boris Johnson “flunked” his opportunity to define his election slogan of levelling up, which risks becoming an “everything and nothing policy”, a Commons committee has warned.

MPs on the Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy Committee added that the government had “failed miserably in translating a political soundbite” into specific policy initiative and a deliverable programme.

The scathing assessment comes after the prime minister admitted during a major speech just last week he only had the “skeleton” of the plan to level up the country, with critics suggesting the 20-minute address was lacking in detail.

The MPs’ report said that levelling up — in their view — was “the spreading of economic and social opportunities more evenly across the country”, but had not received any “adequate answers” from government about the agenda.

They added that it was “unclear” who in government or Whitehall was responsible for delivering the agenda that No 10 described ahead of Mr Johnson’s speech as the “central purpose” of his premiership.

“We are concerned that this lack of definition will result in a failure to deliver meaningful change for people across the country, and that a failure to publish government priorities and metrics will make it impossible for us to understand what has, or has not, been delivered,” the report said.

“As it currently stands, levelling up risks becoming an everything and nothing policy, not owned by a particular minister or department, and without any means in place of evaluating its impact or efficacy as policy in ‘improving everyday life and life chances”.

Among the committee’s recommendations, MPs said the government must work with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the National Audit Office to agree a set of metrics for the “routine reporting of progress”.

It also suggested the creation of a cabinet committee to oversee the delivery on the policy agenda across Whitehall by coordinating funding allocations, including among the devolved nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Darren Jones, the chair of the committee, claimed: “Last week, the prime minister flunked his opportunity to explain what levelling up is and instead revealed that the government has failed miserably in translating a political soundbite into a deliverable programme of government.”

He said that for the prime minister’s levelling up drive to become more than a “political soundbite” the white paper — promised by Downing Street before the end of 2021 — sets out what the policy priorities are and how Whitehall will work with local government.

“Levelling up was a major part of the government’s offer to the British people at the last election, but it appears every possible funding stream from government — be it about bus stops or football pitches is labelled as for levelling up,” he added.

“If levelling up is going to mean something above and beyond the normal day-to-day work of government, the prime minister needs to set out how he’s going to pay for it.

A government spokesperson said: “As we build back better from the pandemic, we are supporting all areas of the United Kingdom to level up by empowering our regions, and providing billions of pounds of new funding to drive local economic growth.

“This includes an investment of £100 billion in infrastructure this year; the creation of a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund to upgrade town centres, high streets and local transport; and establishing a new UK infrastructure bank in Leeds to harness investment and fund new projects.”

Source: The Independent


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