DETAILS of the Government’s flagship levelling up policy have been delayed until next year, three months after initially planned.

The Government promised the White Paper this year, which it said would be led by the Prime Minister and “will focus on challenges including improving living standards, growing the private sector and increasing and spreading opportunity”.

But the Government’s newly-launched Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) confirmed on Monday it will now be published in January.

Little detail has so far been put forward to explain what the Government sees ‘levelling up’ to mean and how it will be delivered, save for a brief description detailing that it will ensure “that everyone across the entire United Kingdom can benefit from the same opportunities”.

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However the Government’s delay in publishing its levelling up agenda has been criticised by Labour.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North said: “It’s a great slogan from the Government but sadly that’s all it seems to be. We’ve been waiting and waiting to find out what levelling up means.

“It seems they try and attach the term to anything and everything they’re doing when the reality is we’re not seeing much change at all.”

The Northern Echo: Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham

Mr Cunningham said levelling up should focus on: health, jobs, income and infrastructure while also allocating funding to disadvantaged areas like Billingham, which was ignored in the latest round of Towns Fund investment.

He added: “I’m always hopeful that something positive is going to happen. The Government have got to demonstrate they can build up communities where people don’t have all the advantages in life.

“What we should be doing is working with local authorities and making sure they understand what they need. We need to get on with it.”

A new blueprint for levelling up, published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership on Monday, called on the Government to treat towns and cities across the North as economic partners, rather than competitors, and talked up the benefits of links between towns and cities.

Read more: Michael Gove says levelling up is 'our moral obligation' during Darlington visit

Transport connectivity was found to have played a vital role in connecting people to job opportunities, while helping businesses to tap into a wider talent pool.

Improving education and skills levels was also found to be critical to unlocking opportunities for local people, both in their hometown and in the wider city region.

It said: “Levelling up northern towns must focus on helping local people access well-paid, skilled jobs in order to drive up wages and productivity, primarily through devolution to Metro Mayors to invest in transport infrastructure, education and skills, as well as innovation backed by government.”

The Northern Echo: Billingham missed out on support in the Towns FundBillingham missed out on support in the Towns Fund

The new report comes after it was rumoured devolution was at the heart of the levelling up secretary Michael Gove’s ambitions for the upcoming paper, while plans are also in place for “American-style governors”.

The Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen was first elected in 2017, and it is believed the Government want to replicate similar roles elsewhere in the country.

A DLHUC spokesman said: “The white paper will be published in January.

“Work is progressing well, with the Levelling Up Committee having met several times and ministers working closely together to deliver the government’s central mission.”

Transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, which has its largest UK office in Newcastle, has played a key role in levelling up discussions in the North East.

Nigel Emmerson, a partner at the firm and head of the Newcastle office, said: "We are disappointed to learn that the White Paper on levelling up is likely to be delayed until next year. 

"However, we press the Government to continue to make levelling up a priority and publish the White Paper as soon as possible in the New Year. 

“We look forward to the white paper clarifying exactly what the government means by the term levelling up as this is a fundamental requirement, both to identify projects which will achieve levelling up and also to measure whether it has been achieved.”

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