Andy Haldane to head new ‘taskforce’ – after prime minister admitted he had only ‘the skeleton’ of a plan
The vow to “level up every part of the UK” has been in something close to crisis since the prime minister’s speech flopped in July, when it was universally attacked for lacking any detail.
Now the housing ministry is being renamed the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, after being handed to Michael Gove in last week’s cabinet reshuffle.
A white paper being put together by the highly-rated Neil O’Brien, now a junior minister in the department, will be published ahead of next month’s crucial three-year spending review.
And Mr Haldane will head up a “Levelling Up Taskforce”, as a permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office on a six-month break from his chief executive post at the Royal Society of Arts.
Mr Haldane, who worked at the Bank of England for 22 years before quitting this year, sa: “Levelling up the UK is one of the signature challenges of our time. It has also been a personal passion throughout my professional career.
“I look forward to working with colleagues across government, local and national, and with the private and voluntary sectors, to design and deliver an economy that works for every part of the UK.”
Two months ago, in Coventry, Mr Johnson admitted he has only “the skeleton” of a plan to level up the country, after being challenged that he had failed to set out how to tackle “entrenched inequalities”.
Even Conservative MPs have admitted that the “slogan” lacks substance and is currently designed to “mean all things to all people”, as one put it.
Mr Johnson has been accused of undermining it with spending cuts, a failure to devolve meaningful power and by “political bias” in handing out government funds.
Downing Street hopes all that will change with the policy in the hands of Mr Gove, who has a record of driving through change in education, justice and the environment in his cabinet career.
Han sa: “I’m thrilled that the PM has asked me to lead the levelling up agenda, the defining mission of this government.
“Our relentless focus will be on delivering for those overlooked families and undervalued communities across the United Kingdom.”
Mr Gove will also enjoy the title “Minister for Intergovernmental Relations”, having been charged with propping up the union and defeating the threat of Scottish independence.
He must also find a way of salvaging the controversial loosening of planning laws, which he has “paused” after a revolt by Tory MPs.