Levelling Up: what now?

Greg Clark, appointed Levelling Up Secretary following the sacking of Michael Gove, is a native of Middlesbrough.

That is about all we know at the moment concerning the future of the levelling up policy and its implementation in the North East.

In itself, Clark’s Teesside roots almost certainly have no significance, as he has come a long way since then – Cambridge University, the London School of Economics and, since 2005, has been MP for Tunbridge Wells in the heart of the Conservative home counties.

Two other ministers in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – both closely involved with the levelling up agenda –  have resigned, as this site reported yesterday.

Meanwhile, the policy itself – like so much other government business – will probably remain in limbo until a new Prime Minister gets his or her feet under the table at 10 Downing Street. That almost certainly means no meaningful progress until the autumn.

As Northern Agenda pointed out today: ‘There was no minister to represent the government as its flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill reached committee stage in the Commons and confusion over whether local leaders would be able to submit bids to the £4.8bn Levelling Up fund to help their communities.’

While here in the North East local leaders can do little or nothing to influence these events, that does not mean there is nothing they can do at all. The region needs to ensure it is ready to take advantage of new devolution and levelling-up opportunities whenever business as usual returns to Westminster and Whitehall.

That means council leaders should ensure they have a settled view among themselves on the devolution deal they want for the region and, as this website has consistently argued, should come to that view transparently by engaging stakeholders like business, unions and the voluntary sector, as well as the public, and not in behind-closed-doors meetings in the town halls. The region must be united and ready when the government is.