The government’s levelling up plans are in “disarray” after ministers delayed the release of a flagship policy paper until next year, Labour said.
Boris Johnson’s central pledge to narrow the UK’s regional inequalities will now not be fleshed out until the government releases a white paper in 2022.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow secretary for levelling up, housing and communities, said: “The government’s commitment to level up our communities is in complete disarray.
“After two years of empty slogans and broken promises it is now crystal clear ministers haven’t been able to come up with a single new idea to make good on the promises they made to level up our communities beyond more boards, bureaucracy and quangos.
“Far too many parts of our country are held back for lack of power and investment. We were promised a serious plan to meet that challenge. Nothing less will do.”
Gove’s devolution plans
Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, had been expected to publish the blueprint before Christmas – but the deadline has now been pushed back, according to The Times.
Devolution will reportedly be at the heart of Gove’s plan to put meat on the bones of Johnson’s foremost domestic slogan, with large parts of the countryside able to elect American-style governments, giving every party of England a local leader with powers equivalent to those held by the mayor of London by the end of the decade.
Nandy, the Wigan MP who was reshuffled to shadow Gove in last week’s reshuffle, said the opportunity to focus on the levelling up brief was “a pretty irresistible offer”.
Revealing that Gove had phoned her after the reshuffle, she told The Observer: “The first thing I said to him is, ‘I want you to succeed, because I have skin in the game’. I said to him, ‘When you get it right you will have my full support but when you get it wrong there will be hell to play’.”
On the importance of tackling the UK’s regional inequalities, she said: “There is growing anger about a settlement that has seen good jobs leaving many towns and villages. And with those jobs have gone opportunities for young people to stay and contribute to communities.
“It has also meant losing the spending power and the working-age populations that sustained our high streets, pubs, banks and post offices – and the bus networks that are commissioned on the basis of passenger numbers.
“It has left populations growing older in many of these places, often hundreds of miles from children and grandchildren, and they are, rightly, very angry.”
“The anger stems from a place of hope. People are optimistic and ambitious for their own lives, families, communities but they want government to show the same ambition for them.
“Whitehall and Westminster tend not to see potential; they only see problems. Grimsby, Aberdeen, Wigan – they want a better future for their town.”