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Michael Gove’s 12 missions for levelling up

Minister promises to ‘call time on postcode lottery’ for economic and educational opportunities

Michael Gove has unveiled an ambitious plan to eliminate illiteracy, improve transport networks and increase access to high-speed broadband by the end of the decade in an effort to alleviate geographical inequalities across the UK.

The levelling up secretary has today published a White Paper laying out 12 national missions designed to increase the economic and educational opportunities available across all regions by “calling time on the postcode lottery”. 

“This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight,” said Gove. “But our 12 new national levelling-up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”

Boris Johnson described the 12 policy objectives as “the most comprehensive, ambitious plan of its kind that this country has ever seen and it will ensure that the government continues to rise to the challenge and deliver for the people of the UK”. 

The 12 national missions

The 12 missions to level up the UK by 2030 are: 

  • Increased pay, employment and productivity. Every area will have a globally competitive city, and the gap between the top-performing and others will close
  • Investment into Research & Development outside of the Greater South East will increae by at least 40%, with government seeking to increase private-sector growth by at least twice as much
  • Local transport connectivity will be closer to London standards, with improved services and integrated ticketing
  • The UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage. Many areas will have 5G coverage
  • The number of people completing high-quality skills training will have increased significantly in every region. This should lead to 200,000 more people completing this type of training in England
  • The gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed. HLE will rise by five years by 2035
  • Wellbeing will improve in every area of the UK
  • People's pride in where they live and engagement in local culture will have risen in every area of the UK
  • Renters will have a safe pathway to ownership, and there'll be more first-time buyers in every area. The number of non-decent rented homes will halve
  • Homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime rates will drop
  • Every area of England that wants a devolution deal will have one

‘A love letter to levelling up’

“The term ‘levelling-up’ is often met with blank faces,” said Sky News’s digital politics editor Tom Rayner. The phrase has become “notorious for its ambiguity” but “for the first time there is a list of clear targets against which the government will ultimately be judged”. 

Voters will not only “be able to see what levelling up actually is, they’ll be able to know whether or not it has been delivered”.

Former Labour MP Tracy Brabin, who became Mayor for West Yorkshire last year, said that “there is lots to be pleased about from what we’ve heard so far,” and particularly the 12th point on the plan, to offer devolution deals that will give local authorities “London-style” powers. 

Gove’s agenda reads like “a love letter to levelling up”, she told the BBC’s Today programme this morning. But “the devil is going to be in the detail”, she noted.

Brabin stressed that achieving the ambitious agenda will need to be a government-wide effort. “It can’t just be down to Michael Gove. Every single department in government must get on the levelling-up agenda”

And while it’s good to see “lots of ambition, lots of hope,” in the plan, “unless you actually have the money and the resources, you are going to be struggling”. There are still “huge challenges” to overcome, and transportation is one area of particular importance to the Northwest.

‘Rather limited’ promises

Landlords may be less pleased by today’s announcements. The Telegraph reported that they could face bills of up to £15,000 as Gove “cracks down on poor-quality rental homes”. And one landlord told the newspaper that they could be “stuck between a rock and a hard place” if potential buyers are put off by the costs of upgrading a rental property that’s on the market. 

The White Paper “has attempted to merge both blue-sky idealism” of longer-term societal gains with “short-term offerings” such as lower crime rates, said the i news site’s political reporter Chloe Chaplain.

But “it is arguably little more than a vision”, given it comes with no extra money, said Chaplain. “Efforts to help left-behind communities” have been “hampered by a decade of cuts to local government”, said the Financial Times’s Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne. 

Gove’s plan is “reliant on allocations” made in Rishi Sunak’s spending review of last year, and is “likely to be criticised for not including new government funding”. 

The BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam described Gove’s pledges as “reflecting the fiscal situation”, in that they are “rather limited”. 

“The challenge is whether entrenched patterns of economic geography can really be changed without footing a very significant bill”.


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