Anybody living in, say, Bassetlaw or Bolsover and feeling that it’s about time the government did something to revive their community, will have welcomed the Levelling Up white paper, published by the communities secretary, Michael Gove, last month.
Ever since Boris Johnson finally extracted the UK from the European Union, backed enthusiastically by voters in the former ‘red wall’ Labour strongholds of the north, he has been banging on about ‘levelling up’ the UK without really explaining what that means.
Gove’s white paper supposedly spells out how this government expects to fix the economic and social inequalities between the far-flung provinces and the prosperous south-east.
In fact all it did, as we report on page 5 of this issue, was package up several existing government policies and revive the sort of urban regeneration initiatives rolled out by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Central to the policy are 12 ‘missions’, all of which sound absolutely spiffing, such as increasing the number of primary school children reaching the required standards of reading, writing and arithmetic; improving a sense of ‘wellbeing’ and reducing the number of people getting murdered.
But these are just vague aspirations – there’s no real strategy, no meat on those emaciated bones. Oh, and have I already mentioned that the eastern leg of HS2, from Birmingham to Leeds, was axed last year? Not sure how that fits into the Levelling Up agenda.