Labour replaces “levelling up” departments with local government 

Downing Street Economy News Policy & Politics Whitehall

The concept of levelling up, which aimed to address regional disparities, was central to Boris Johnson’s 2019 election campaign. Upon taking office, Johnson renamed the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government to include “levelling up.”

However, the new government is making changes to departmental names and titles by replacing the term “levelling up” with “local government,” as announced by minister Jim McMahon. 

In an interview, McMahon said the phrase was “only ever a slogan” and is now being “firmly Tippex-ed out of the department.” In response, a Conservative spokesperson argued that the levelling up initiative had significantly benefited towns across the country, providing much-needed investment to communities that had been previously neglected under Labour. 

They warned that Labour’s decision to abandon the levelling up agenda would be detrimental to these towns and criticised the potential reallocation of £1 billion in Conservative funding.

In 2022, then-Minister Michael Gove outlined the objectives of the levelling up policy, noting that the economic success concentrated in London and the southeast had not been evenly shared. 

He described the 2016 Brexit referendum as a wake-up call from underappreciated communities, prompting the government to rethink the economic model. 

The previous government established the Levelling Up Fund, allocating nearly £5 billion to ready-to-go projects, with the North West of England receiving the most funding, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, and Wales receiving the most per capita.

The fund supported various regeneration projects, including Twycross Zoo in Bosworth, a swimming pool in Halifax, and Rotherham town centre. However, it faced criticism, such as from Conservative West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who described it as part of Whitehall’s “broken begging bowl culture” and advocated for local decision-making over centralised control. 

Other aspects of the levelling up policy included relocating civil servants outside London and establishing freeports in areas like Teesside, Hull, and Portsmouth.

Although the term “levelling up” is being retired, the broader goals of decentralisation, empowering local mayors, and revitalising neglected areas remain a priority and have enjoyed bipartisan support. These efforts are expected to continue under the new government.

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