Great Britain

Boris Johnson improves ‘levelling up’ spending plans for UK with new task force

Boris Johnson warns Starmer of ‘hungry’ Angela Rayner

A team of civil servants is being set up to suggest policies for the Government on how to “level up” the country. Mr Johnson made “levelling up” a key element of the Conservative’s 2019 election campaign, with several policies making their way into yesterday’s Queen Speech.

Officials confirmed to POLITICO the “levelling up” task force is being created, with responsibility shared between Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

The unit’s director will report directly to Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service.

The director will lead a team of around 15 staff hand-picked from within the civil service, working with Neil O’Brien, Conservative MP for Harborough and former Treasury aide.

Mr O’Brien was recently recruited to advise the Prime Minister on how to “level up” the country.

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Handout photo issued by UK Parliament showing Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the Queens Speech debate. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021

Boris Johnson news: A ‘levelling up’ task force will be set up by Downing Street (Image: PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (far right) and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (behind) walk through the Central Lobby on their way from the House of Lords after listening to the Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021

Boris Johnson news: The civil servant-staffed force will report to Downing Street and Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office (Image: PA)

It comes after Queen Elizabeth II set out the Government's "levelling up" agenda yesterday.

Her Majesty outlined the Prime Minister’s focus on boosting investment in infrastructure, healthcare and green technology to create more post-COVID jobs.

She said: “My government's priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous that before.

"To achieve this, my government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services."

Queen Elizabeth II before she delivers a speech from the throne in House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London as she outlines the government's legislative programme for the coming session during the State Opening of Parliament. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021

Boris Johnson news: Queen Elizabeth II set out the government's ‘levelling up’ agenda yesterday (Image: PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson loads a crate into a delivery van during a visit to Greenside Farm Business Park in Leeds, ahead of Thursday's General Election DEC 11 2019

Boris Johnson news: ‘Levelling up’ the UK to combat regional inequality was a core campaign promise for the Conservatives in 2019 (Image: PA)

Ahead of the 2019 general election, which saw Mr Johnson and the Tories win a massive majority of 80 seats, the Prime Minister promised to “level up” left behind regions of the country.

Last month, the Prime Minister wrote to cabinet ministers ordering them to come up with "ambitious plans" to turn the government's levelling up agenda from an ambition to reality, according to sources.

The Government will also publish a landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, articulating how policy interventions will improve livelihoods across the country “as we recover from the pandemic and its effects on the economy and public services”.

On the Government’s website, a statement said: “The White Paper - which will be led by the Prime Minister - will focus on challenges including improving living standards, growing the private sector and increasing and spreading opportunity.

“It accompanies work being undertaken to repair the damage done by Covid to public services, with backlogs in hospitals and courts prioritised alongside school catch ups and jobs.”

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File photo dated 19/11/08 of workers in a factory

Boris Johnson news: The ISC warned ‘levelling up’ plans won’t succeed as it relies on infrastructure spending and one-off funding schemes controlled from Westminster (Image: PA)

However, the Industrial Strategy Council (ISC), a Government watchdog led by the Bank of England’s chief economist, said plans for “levelling up” Britain are unlikely to succeed.

The watchdog stated the plans rely too heavily on infrastructure spending and one-off funding schemes controlled from Westminster.

Andy Haldane, Bank of England chief economist and head of the ISC, said at an event hosted by the Institute for Government: “You don’t level up from the top down.

“Rather you level up from the bottom up.”

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