North East Devolution and Levelling Up

No levelling up cash for manufacturing – report

Evidence which has been accumulating on this website in recent days that there will be no more funding for levelling up beyond what has already been announced continues to mount. This time the Daily Telegraph reports that Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has clashed with the Treasury over plans to boost manufacturing industry.

The paper says it understands that Mr Gove has been told not to go ahead with a White Paper on the future of manufacturing as this would suggest new investment that will in fact not be forthcoming.

The stand-off, the Telegraph says, reflects a wider tension between Tories calling for more spending to deliver change in formerly Labour-held ‘red-wall’ seats and those in traditional [Conservative] seats pushing for tax cuts – exactly the debate reported on this website yesterday.

The Telegraph’s report is the first time, as far as this website is aware, that the idea of a second White Paper devoted to manufacturing in addition to the Devolution White Paper already expected has been introduced into the levelling up debate. As it is apparently contrary to Treasury wishes it may never be heard of again.

The idea is also unexpected in coming from Mr Gove rather than the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, though according to the Telegraph it is Mr Kwarteng who would be expected to lead on the Manufacturing White Paper were it ever to appear.

Mr Gove, the paper explains, wants to include a pledge in his levelling up announcement, when it eventually comes, to overhaul manufacturing strategy, given the industrial slump seen in many of the UK’s poorest communities, including the ‘red wall’ seats won by the Tories for the first time in the 2019 general election.

Nevertheless, surprising though the report may be, it is useful – if not welcome – in confirming that we can expect no extra money for levelling up during this parliament (i.e. until 2024) above what has already been announced in the 2021 Autumn Budget and Spending Review.