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Boris Johnson missed opportunity to set upgrade program, MPs say

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Boris Johnson has “missed” his opportunity to set his government’s flagship leveling program that risks becoming an “all-and-nothing policy,” MPs said.

Leveling was a term coined when Mr Johnson walked into Downing Street and came under heavy pressure in the 2019 election as a way to bridge regional inequalities and “improve daily life and chances of living”.

But the phrase has since been used to tackle a number of societal ills, including tackling racial inequalities in the context of Black Lives Matter protests, speaking out about the rights of people with disabilities, and attacking to anti-Semitism.

Coronavirus - Mon June 7, 2021
A Black Lives Matter Protest (Aaron Chown / PA)

Releasing a report on the policy on Thursday, Labor MP Darren Jones, chairman of the Trade, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee, said: ‘The upgrade was an important part of the government’s offer to the people British in the last election, but it looks like every possible government funding stream – be it bus stops or football pitches – is being labeled as for leveling. “

The BEIS committee said it believed leveling meant “the more even spread of economic and social opportunities across the country.”

But the panel added that despite collecting a lot of evidence for a year from various parts of the government, they had not received adequate responses to their questions on the agenda, and it was not clear who was responsible for implementing it.

The Prime Minister was criticized after a speech last week at the UK Battery Industrialization Center in Coventry – which was touted as a major bid to define his vision for the UK – for providing few new details on the upgrade level.

Mr Johnson appointed Tory MP Neil O’Brien as upgrade adviser in May and promised a white paper on upgrading later in the year.

portraits of deputies
Neil O’Brien was appointed Prime Minister’s Upgrade Advisor earlier this year (Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament)

But Mr Jones said: “Last week the Prime Minister missed his opportunity to explain what leveling is and instead revealed that the government has failed miserably to translate a political phrase into a deliverable government program.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson insisted that the speech defined the leveling up and added: “There will obviously be more to say about the leveling up when we publish our white paper later this year. year. “

The committee report said: “Despite the emphasis on leveling as a central theme of government discourse, there remains a lack of clarity as to what the government actually means by leveling, and subsequently, how success or not of the government policy upgrading goal can be assessed and evaluated.

He added: “To date, the government has provided no overall strategy for the program or a vision of what an improved UK might look like in the future.”

MEPs said it was not clear whether the amount of money pledged was enough to match, let alone exceed, historic levels of UK and EU funding to local governments.

And that “given that the government itself is focusing on its upgrading program, the lack of clarity around its meaning and how it translates into specific policy initiatives and strategies is glaring.”

The report warned: “As it stands, the race to the top risks becoming an all-and-nothing policy. “

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