Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a series of urban renewal projects worth £830m in towns and cities away from London as part of his promise to ‘level up’ the country's economy
A new unit has been set up to work specifically on the levelling up white papers with Neil O’Brien, Conservative MP for Harborough in Leicestershire, appointed as levelling up adviser.
The levelling up plans reveal a range of new policies which aim to tackle long-standing inequalities which have been furthered exacerbated by Covid-19, by improving access to education, upgrading infrastructure in town centres and increasing the number of public sector jobs outside of London.
The government plans that more than 3,000 civil service jobs across the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be relocated to hubs in Stoke-on-Trent, Edinburgh and Belfast by 2025.
This is part of the government’s commitment to move 22,000 civil service roles outside of London and the south east by 2030, ensuring more policy makers reflect the communities they serve and aims to break the ‘London centric bubble’ by creating more opportunities to work in the public sector outside of London.
The plan also states that 57 local areas, across the UK, have been confirmed as recipients of the £830m investment to transform high streets across the country into vibrant places to live, work and shop.
The levelling up examples put forward include creating a new cinema and market food hall to boost visitor numbers in Grimsby, building an outdoor performance venue in Taunton, and repurposing vacant retail space into offices and hospitality venues in areas like Sutton-in-Ashfield.
It also announces that four local authorities, Plymouth, Ashfield & Mansfield, South Sefton & North Liverpool, and North Durham & City, will receive £10m to improve the quality of teaching.
These areas have lower than average numbers of pupils in good or outstanding schools, which will be encouraged to join multi-academy trusts so pupils will be a part of a stronger group of schools which could offer them a better education than what is currently available.
Funding will also go to areas including Blackpool, Derby, Oldham and West Somerset in order to help children improve in key subjects such as maths and English, support pupils who are at risk of falling out of education and provide older students with the confidence and skills to make the leap from school into work.
An £18m expansion of the Opportunity Areas programme has been announced for the fifth year running, which aims to help vulnerable young people from the most disadvantaged areas in the country.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: ‘As the country gets back on its feet, the government has renewed its commitment to levelling up and tackling the issues that really matter to people.
‘Making sure our children get the best possible education, transforming our town centres and correcting the regional imbalance of public sector roles – this is levelling up in action.
‘Not only will we beat the pandemic and recover from its impact, I am determined to seize the opportunity it presents to create a fairer society, improve lives and build back better once and for all.’
The levelling up plans were the main theme of the Queen’s speech when she opened parliament on 11 May 2021 where she also touched on the topics of health and social care reform, environmental policies, building safety and online security.
Johnson plans on publishing the full Levelling Up white paper later this year, which will set out further policy interventions that aim to improve lives during the recovery from the pandemic.