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Government Still Hasn't Finalised Appointments For Top Levelling Up Jobs

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove pictured in December 2022 (Alamy)

4 min read

Labour has accused the government of “stumbling from crisis to crisis”, over a failure to complete work to appoint a cohort of Levelling Up directors, almost a year after they were promised.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the “robust” process to fill the positions is “still ongoing,” but declined to give a timeframe on when this may be completed. 

Detail of which areas across the UK will receive a total of £2.1 bn worth of Levelling Up funds in a second round of allocations is announced today.

The government is yet to disclose detail of what Levelling Up directors will be responsible for overseeing. They are broadly expected to “act as a single point of contact for local leaders and a first port of call for new and innovative local policy proposals,” according to Michael Gove’s Levelling Up white paper, published last February.

Levelling Up minister Dehenna Davison said in October that the department was “in the process of recruitment” for the roles, which were advertised with salaries of up to £144,000. 

Responding to a written ministerial question from Labour shadow Levelling Up minister Alex Norris on when all directors would be in post, the Bishop Auckland MP Davison said that “more details” on when the senior civil servants would be appointed would be “available in due course when the Secretary of State of State has considered official advice”. 

At the time, the position of Levelling Up Secretary was filled by Simon Clarke, but Gove has since been reappointed to the role in Rishi Sunak’s government, having previously held it under Boris Johnson, and is largely regarded as the architect of the policy.

In a follow-up written question this week seeking an update on the recruitment process, Davison told Norris that “announcements will be made in the usual way”.

Norris told PoliticsHome that “the story of these directors is symbolic of the government’s whole approach to Levelling Up” and reiterated Keir Starmer’s promise to “transfer power out of Westminster” with the Take Back Control bill, announced earlier this month. 

He accused ministers of “grand promises, announced with big fanfare, which aren't delivered and quickly disappear while the government stumbles from crisis to crisis”. 

“Britain deserves far better than gimmicks and more delays. We need a government that will back all people in all parts of Britain to make their full contribution,” he added. 

A spokesperson at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told PoliticsHome: “Levelling Up directors will be based in the areas they represent, and will act as champions of their areas within government, contributing to spreading equality up and down the country and levelling up communities.

“The process of appointing Levelling Up directors is ongoing. This is a robust and rigorous process and we will only allocate roles to those who are suitable. Further details on its progress will be released in due course.”

The delay in the process to appoint Levelling Up directors has gained fresh attention as spending for the second round of the Levelling Up fund is announced. 

Overall, 111 areas have been awarded a total of £2.1 bn worth of cash for projects such as transport improvement and community regenerations. 

In 2021, £1.7 bn was awarded to 105 projects that come under the government's flagship Levelling Up agenda. 

Sunak has said that the cash will help “grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere”, and has made delivering on the project, pledged by his predecessor Boris Johnson during the 2019 general election campaign, a central pilar of his own premiership.  

He added: “By reaching even more parts of the country than before, we will build a future of optimism and pride in people’s lives and the places they call home”. 

Shadow Levelling Up secretary Lisa Nandy accused the government of formulating a "Hunger Games-style" contest that makes communities compete. 

She said: “The Levelling Up Fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism. 15 months after the first round of allocations, just 5 per cent of the money has made it to the communities who were promised it. And despite today’s announcement, communities across the country are still paying a Tory premium for the last 13 years.

“It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities, which has decimated vital local services like childcare, buses and social care." 

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