"LEVELLING up" Britain was one of the key pledges made by the Government as part of its election campaign in 2019 - but more than two years on the Government is yet to set out its plan.

A white paper - a policy documents produced to set out proposals for future legislation -which will set out the details of the flagship policy is supposedly just weeks away from being revealed but little detail has so far been put forward to explain what the slogan means. 

The term is generally understood to refer to addressing regional inequalities, with the Government defining it as “boosting living standards, improving public services, enhancing civic pride and strengthening local leadership”.

The Government delayed releasing the White Paper in December last year, and now new doubts have emerged whether it will be released in the next best date of the first week of February.

The Northern Echo:

Read more: North East councils spend thousands on consultants for Levelling Up cash

Critics have argued that the government is running out of time to spell out its levelling up strategy – and in doing so is having a detrimental impact on the UK’s regional inequalities, most pertinent in the north. 

It is believed Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove will focus on polices such as improving housing, planning and infrastructure and boosting the high street with plans also in place for a wider rollout of devolution and the introduction of “American-style governors”. 

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen

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.

But Mayor Houchen sent the prime minister a strong warning when writing in The Northern Echo earlier this month by saying many locals who voted for him in 2019 will be closely considering the Government's levelling up progress at the next election. 

He said: “Boris must make it his New Year’s resolution to redouble and refocus the government’s work to level up the United Kingdom and bring new jobs and new hope to places like Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool. This is the true cause of this government.

"The Westminster political bubble isn’t known for its long attention span, especially when it comes to the needs of the North."

"People in Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool are realists - they know that levelling up is not something that will be delivered in just a year or two, that it will be a decades-long project. But they need – and deserve - to see progress with their own eyes."

Read more: Levelling Up has to be kept alive amid all the chaos of the Johnson government

The Government's Levelling Up Fund, which handed out millions of pounds to constituencies across the country last year, will reveal a second round of successful recipients in the Spring but new announcements such as the Integrated Rail Plan - revealed in November - was criticised by Northern leaders as "woefully inadequate". 

However, Michael Gove has claimed there is “no evidence of any abuse of levelling up funding” after MPs raised “pork barrel politics” concerns.

Conservative MP William Wragg for Hazel Grove surprised Westminster last week by alleging that party colleagues trying to trigger a no confidence vote in Mr Johnson had been told public funding for projects in their constituencies would be cut off and threatened with stories in the press to embarrass them.

Mr Gove said he “abjures the whole idea of pork barrels”, adding: “What we both believe in is allocating funding on the basis of merit and need.”

“We are committed to levelling up and uniting the country irrespective of political colour.”

The Northern Echo: Shadow Levelling Up secretary Lisa NandyShadow Levelling Up secretary Lisa Nandy

But shadow Levelling Up secretary Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, had said money has been “flowing” to Cabinet ministers’ constituencies but the Government still refuses to “come clean” on how those decisions are being made.

Ms Nandy said: “How can any community have confidence that they have a fair shot at getting some of their money back from his department if he won’t release in full the information he holds about how these decisions are being made?”

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