The Government must fulfill its promise made to Conservative voters in 2019 to “level up” the UK, according to Michael Gove. The levelling-up secretary told the BBC the Government was on a “moral mission” to boost prosperity in poorer areas. Speaking on a visit to Red wall constituency Grimsby, Mr Gove said the country had been “over-centralised” for too long.
He stressed that the “elites in London” do not understand the problems of people in “overlooked” communities.
“Unless we are the Government for levelling up, then we will fail the people who voted for us in 2019,” he added.
Levelling up was Mr Johnson’s flagship promise made to people who switched from Labour to Conservative in the last election.
To deliver on this, the Government has promised a £4.8billion fund to support regeneration, transport projects, and education across the UK as part of its levelling up programme.
On Wednesday, the department announced the flagship Levelling Up White Paper which will outline how these funds will be spent.
The paper promises improved infrastructure, research and development funding, educational outcomes and quality of life across Britain.
It also offers greater devolution to towns and cities, in what officials describe as a “devolution revolution” and a “huge shift of power from Whitehall to local leaders”.
Mr Gove acknowledged people wanted to see improvements quickly – but real change would take time.
Ministers hope that the policies will be achieved by 2030.
The 350 page policy document has taken months of work by Mr Gove and his Levelling Up taskforce, led by Andy Haldane, a former chief economist at the Bank of England.
The paper pledges to reduce the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor areas of Britain.
It also hopes to lift life expectancy by five years overall by 2035.
By the end of the decade, 90 per cent of children will have reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, according to the paper.
Meanwhile, 200,000 additional people will complete high-quality skills training each year.
It also promises that Britain will have nationwide 4G coverage, with the majority of the population also able to access mobile 5G.
But critics say the government’s flagship agenda lacks funding and uses “recycled money”.
When asked if there was any new money in the policy paper, Mr Gove said he was making use of funds made “available to my department and to others in the Spending Review and tilting it”.
He denied that the Treasury had refused him more money ahead of the paper.
Change needed to happen quickly and visibly, he said – but it was also “a long haul” and levelling up wasn’t just a “hanging basket here or there”.
“It’s a moral mission, and it’s an economic mission, and it’s one that the prime minister is committed to,” Mr Gove added.