Boris’ Broken Promises on Levelling Up Still Leaving a Sour Taste for Many

A key promise made by Boris Johnson after his 2019 election has been a complete failure. The Tories promised to close the gap between London and the rest of the UK, but little to no progress has been made. 

‘Northern Powerhouse’ a Long-Standing Tory Promise

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The original version of the levelling-up agenda was introduced by the coalition government after the 2010 election. Cameron and Osborne promised to enhance the scheme when the Tories took control in 2015.

Change in Power Structure

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The project was designed to devolve power to the cities. This moved more decision making into the areas where councils knew their local requirements better. This has been delivered, with Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield given their own metro Mayor.

‘Blunt’ Powers for Mayors

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Whilst metro mayors were given some devolved powers, the reality is the central government controls the ultimate funding and decision-making power. Infrastructure spending and projects remain under the control of the central government.

Downgraded by May

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When Theresa May took office in 2016, the Northern Powerhouse project was revoked and instead integrated with a nationwide scheme to boost productivity outside of the southeast.

Much Promised, Little Delivered

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At the start of the levelling-up agenda, there was much fanfare around improving transport links, especially in the north. Promises of modernising and expanding the rail network and technology sectors were made. 

Enter, Boris Johnson

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Buoyed by an election win largely helped by northern voters, Boris Johnson repeated previous Tory governments’ promises to invest in the North and reduce the gap in living standards between London and the rest of the country.

Michael Gove Takes the Reigns

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With little progress on the levelling up front, Michael Gove was put in charge of the project. In his 2022 levelling-up white paper, he set 12 targets. Albethem vague, they were still targets.

Targets Missed

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Independent analysis shows that of the 12 targets, there has been no progress on six of them and three have actually gotten worse. That’s a 75% failure rate across the board in three years.

Labour Seeking to Change Things

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Traditionally the Labour party has enjoyed success in the north of the UK, but suffered significant reduction in support during the last election. 

Charm Offensive Will Begin

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In order to win back the northern voters, the Labour Party will have to commit to tangible changes in the region, putting some real force into the levelling up agenda. 

Labour Making Early Moves

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Angela Raynor, the shadow Levelling Up Secretary said “Levelling up hasn’t really delivered because the projects have been gimmicks. They’re not really addressing some of the fundamental issues that towns and cities across the country face.”

Some Tories Voicing Frustrations on the Project

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John Stevenson, the Tory MP who chairs the party’s Northern Research Group said “The truth [is] the government’s commitment to the north has ebbed and flowed,” he said. “At times it’s been full on, but at other times it’s been lukewarm.”

Government Maintains Project Is Still Ongoing

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A spokesperson for the levelling up department said: “Levelling up is an ambitious long-term programme of reform and by sticking to the plan we are making significant progress against our missions.”

Levelling up a Multi-Faceted Project

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In his white paper, Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said “While talent is distributed evenly across the UK, opportunity is not. For many, if you want to get on you need to get out. Levelling up is a mission – part economic, part social, part moral – to change that for good.”

But Little Has Been Delivered

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Ministers came under fire for repeatedly delaying the second round of bidding for the £4.8bn levelling up fund. There was further criticism when they changed the rules on how the money was to be allocated even after funding bids for various projects had been submitted. 

Public Accounts Committee Show How Little Has Been Done

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The public accounts committee reported that only 10% of the £10bn allocated for levelling up had been spent.  

Projects Are Running Behind

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The public accounts committee report also shows that 80% of the projects that received money early in the process were due to miss their deadline of completion by the end of March.

Office of National Statistics Shows Further Failure

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The ONS shows that the average healthy life that a child can expect when they are born has been getting steadily shorter for the past decade. To make things worse, the gap between the north-east and the south-east (longest to shortest life expectancy regions) is growing.

Some Areas of Progress

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It’s not a complete failure so far. Wages in the north are growing faster than the south east (although remain significantly lower on average), so some progress is being made. Crime is falling in some areas as well.

Devolution an Tangible Success

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An area where the government has delivered though is the devolution of power. A government spokesman said  “In 2010, there was no devolution in England beyond the M25 and now almost two-thirds of the country is covered by devolution deals – including 90% of the north – with more to come.”

Levelling Up Has a Way to Go

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For over a decade the north has seen empty promise after empty promise. Upgrades to transport infrastructure haven’t been delivered, including the HS2 line to the north. In order to make levelling up work, the government will have to put the project higher up their agenda.

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The post Boris’ Broken Promises on Levelling Up Still Leaving a Sour Taste for Many first appeared on Edge Media.

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