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Government unveils levelling up plan that will transform UK

Government unveils levelling up plan that will transform UK

Government unveils levelling up plan that will transform UK

Michael Gove to unveil the government’s flagship Levelling Up White Paper

The government last night revealed more details on its flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill including letting local authorities double council tax on empty and second homes and imposing local design codes for developers.

The Bill was one of the key parts of this week’s Queen’s Speech.

Through the proposed law, the government aims to help transform struggling towns and cities, support local leaders to take back control of regeneration, end the blight of empty shops on their high streets and deliver the quality homes that communities need.

The focus on housebuilding in the Bill includes:

–  Local plans – the way in which councils set the vision for future development in their area and decide whether to give planning permission – will gain stronger legal weight and be made simpler to produce. Communities will have a major say in these plans giving them more opportunity to shape what happens in their areas. Currently 61% of councils do not have an up to date local plan, which leaves communities exposed to development on which they haven’t had a meaningful say.

–  A digitised planning system making plans and planning applications fully available on your smartphone.
– Stronger protections for the environment in local plans, empowering councils to make better use of brownfield land and protect precious greenbelt land.
– Local design codes will be made mandatory so that developers have to respect styles drawn up and favoured locally – from the layout or materials used, to how it provides green space.

Other property related measures in the Bill include giving local leaders the powers to regenerate their communities and transform their high streets and town centres

This includes:

–    New powers for local leaders to run High Street Rental Auctions, where they can auction off tenancies in shops that have been vacant for over a year. This will help to end the plague of empty shops that blight so many high streets.

-Councils will also be able to double council tax on empty and second homes, ensuring everyone pays their fair share towards local services and boost levelling up.

– The ‘al-fresco dining revolution’ will be made permanent, injecting new life into the high street through creating a sustainable process for communities, business and local authorities, making it permanently cheaper and quicker to get a licence for outdoor dining.

– A new, locally set infrastructure levy, charged on the final value of property when its sold, will replace much of the broken S106 payments system. This will see the big developers contribute far more of the money they make from development towards building better local roads, rail, schools, hospitals, and more affordable housing.

– Legislation to make it easier for councils to regenerate their town centres through Compulsory Purchase Orders, making the process quicker and easier to use.

  • Twelve bold national levelling up missions, given status in law, will shift government focus and resources to Britain’s forgotten communities throughout 2020s
  • Biggest shift of power from Whitehall to local leaders in modern times announced – every part of England to get ‘London style’ powers and mayor if they wish to
  • Starting gun fired on decade-long project to level up Britain, with radical new policies announced across the board
  • Domestic public investment in Research & Development to increase by at least 40% across the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

The White Paper will set out a complete ‘system change’ of how government works that will be implemented to level up the UK.

At the heart of this new way of making and implementing policy will be 12 bold, national missions – all quantifiable and to be achieved by 2030. These missions (in full below) are the policy objectives for levelling up, and thus form the heart of the government’s agenda for the 2020s.

These missions will be cross-government, cross-society efforts. The first mission, for instance, will see pay, employment, and productivity grow everywhere, and the disparities between the top and worst performing areas narrow. This is the first time a government has placed narrowing spatial economic disparities at the heart of its agenda.

The Research & Development (R&D) mission will see domestic public R&D investment outside the Greater South East increase by at least 40% by 2030, with these funds leveraging a huge increase in private investment in these areas too.

By 2030, other missions will see:

  • the rest of the country’s local public transport systems becoming much closer to London standards
  • the large majority of the country gain access to 5G broadband
  • illiteracy and innumeracy in primary school leavers effectively eliminated – focussing the government’s education efforts on the most disadvantaged parts of the country

Other missions will see: hundreds of thousands more people completing high quality skills training every year, gross disparities in healthy life expectancy narrowed, the number of poor quality rented homes halved, the most run down town centres and communities across the country rejuvenated, a significant decrease in serious crime in the most blighted areas, and every part of England getting a ‘London-style’ devolution deal if they wish to.

The government will do whatever it can to achieve these missions. Government’s resources, energy, and focus throughout the 2020s will be re-oriented around achieving them – and thus squarely focussed on helping the people and parts of the country most struggling. Whilst the missions are UK-wide ambitions, in the many instances where they are driven by devolved policy levers, the UK government wishes to work hand in hand with the devolved governments to achieve them.

The missions will be underpinned by a suite of public metrics to track progress and monitor the evolution of spatial disparities. The government will legislate such that it has a statutory duty to publish an annual report updating the public on the progress of these missions, with a new Levelling Up Advisory Council including members such as Sir Paul Collier, renowned economist at Oxford’s Blavatnik’s School of Government, providing further support and constructive analysis.

Other parts of the ‘system change’ include: all policy across Whitehall being aligned with the levelling up agenda and therefore subject to spatial analysis, and a transformation of the government’s approach to data and evaluation – with a new independent body created to improve transparency of local government performance.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:

“The United Kingdom is an unparalleled success story. We have one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies. Ours is the world’s most spoken language. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any country other than America.

“But not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline. The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine.

“Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.

“This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities.

“The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this White Paper is the next crucial step.

“It is a vision for the future that will see public spending on R&D increased in every part of the country; transport connectivity improving; faster broadband in every community; life expectancies rising; violent crime falling; schools improving; and private sector investment being unleashed.

“It is the most comprehensive, ambitious plan of its kind that this country has ever seen and it will ensure that the government continues to rise to the challenge and deliver for the people of the UK.”

Huge shift of power from Whitehall to local leaders

The government recognises that if it tries to level up the UK alone, it will fail. That is why the White Paper will detail the largest devolution of power from Whitehall to local leaders across England in modern times.

The government recognises the strong local leadership mayors like Andy Street, Ben Houchen and Andy Burnham have shown, and wishes to replicate this success across England.

Fundamental to this ‘devolution revolution’ will be a new model for England with more mayors for those areas that want one.

We will invite the first 9 areas to agree new county deals and seek to agree further MCA deals, extending devolution across England. The first 9 areas invited to begin negotiations will be Cornwall, Derbyshire & Derby, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, Durham, Hull & East Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire & Nottingham, and Suffolk.

The White Paper announces negotiations for a new Mayoral Combined Authority deal for York and North Yorkshire and expanded Mayoral Combined Authority deal for the North East, as well as negotiations for ‘trailblazer’ devolution deals with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to extend their powers – with these deals acting as blueprints for other Mayoral Combined Authorities to follow.

By 2030, every part of England that wishes to have a ‘London-style’ devolution deal will have one.

The local devolution mission is relevant in England only, but the wider policy programme will see decentralisation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to local areas in Scotland and Wales.

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