The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is advertising for a Levelling Up Director for the North East with an annual salary of up to £144,000. The new post will be one of 12 across the UK.
The director will work with local areas and across central government ‘to drive new and innovative local policy proposals, based on a real understanding of local issues and opportunities’, according to the DLUHC.
He or she will help deliver the 12 levelling up missions identified in the Levelling Up White Paper published last month with a target achievement date of 2030.
According to the job advert: ‘If you want to work with local partners and across government to tackle systemic, place-based challenges in your area one of these roles could be for you.
‘You will need to be highly innovative, collaborative, adept at problem-solving, focused on solutions and be able to inspire people to come together around shared ambitions. Levelling Up Directors will live, breathe and champion the places they represent.’
The closing date for applications is April 18.
A post somewhat similar to Director of Levelling Up existed between 1994 and 2010 in the shape of Government Office Regional Director, but it disappeared when the Coalition Government abolished government regional offices.
Each government office was a mini-Whitehall for its region, representing 13 government departments on behalf of which they managed or influenced £7.7bn of public spending in 2006-07 of which the largest share – 31% – was on behalf of the Department for Transport.
The running costs of government offices totalled £128 million in 2009-10, the majority of which was pay.
The rationale for government offices for the regions was that delegating to local expertise and understanding results in more effective government. Through representing the interests of a wide range of departments government offices were also intended to result in more ‘joined up’ delivery of cross-cutting agendas.
The Coalition’s reason for abolishing them was that they ‘lacked democratic accountability, created burdens and bureaucracy for local councils and imposed arbitrary administrative boundaries over real communities’.
It is not clear what the total cost of the 12 levelling up directors, including their staff and accommodation will be, but it is likely to be only a small fraction of the £128m cost of the government offices.
The new posts do however represent a small step back towards the regionalism of the Labour Government from the localism of the Coalition and succeeding Conservative governments. The North East Levelling Up Director will presumably be responsible for the entire region, including Tees Valley.
It will be a tough job getting local leaders from Tory Mayor Ben Houchen in Tees Valley to his Momentum counterpart Jamie Driscoll in North of Tyne to ‘come together around shared ambitions’, while persuading councils in Newcastle north of the river to Gateshead and Sunderland to the south to collaborate in a new devolution deal will be almost as challenging.