What is the upgrade strategy?

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Michael Gove has finally drawn up plans to “level” the country and reduce the great disparities facing the UK.

But what are the details of the 330-plus-page white paper that was released by the Leveling Up Secretary on Wednesday.

– What is upgrading?

It was a key slogan of Boris Johnson’s election campaign in 2019, but ministers have too often struggled to define what it really is.

The ambition is to tackle vast regional inequalities across the UK but without, as the Prime Minister puts it, ‘cutting the big poppies’ or trying to ‘block off’ wealthy areas.

There are now a dozen national “missions” to be completed by 2030 to give substance to the slogan.

– What are the missions of Mr Gove?

Wages, employment and productivity must rise in “all areas” of the UK, while local public transport across the country must become “significantly closer” to London standards.

Other targets include 90% of primary school children in England reaching expected standards in reading, writing and maths, while homicides, serious violence and neighborhood crime are to drop.

The gap in healthy life expectancy between the best and worst performing areas needs to narrow, with the measure increasing by five years by 2035.

– What else?

Mr Gove has set out plans for 20 new urban regeneration projects across the Midlands and North of England, with £1.8billion of new housing projects.

He also highlighted £5bn of investment in bus services and ‘active travel’.

More than £100m has been committed to ‘innovation accelerators’ aimed at replicating Silicon Valley success in the West Midlands, Glasgow and Greater Manchester.

More regional mayors in England could be created as part of a strategy to increase devolution and devolve powers held in Whitehall to local leaders.

– Is this all new?

Shadow Upgrade Secretary Lisa Nandy argued the plan fell far short of what the country needed.

“Ministers have had two and a half years to get it right and all we have been given are more slogans and strategies, with few new ideas,” she said.

“Boris Johnson’s response to our communities calling for change is to mix up deckchairs, new government structures, recycled pots of money and a small payback on the money this government has taken from us.

“This is not what we were promised.

“We deserve a lot more ambition than that.”

Labor also highlighted the Conservatives’ record in power since 2010 “energizing the decline of our communities”.

– Where is the money?

The coronavirus has presented a major disruption in defining the flagship aspiration, but the exorbitant sums spent to protect people and livelihoods have now limited the upgrade strategy.

Rather than new funding from the Treasury, the money to cover the strategy’s programs all comes from allegations previously laid out in the spending review.

– What is the view outside of Westminster?

Liverpool area mayor Steve Rotheram said the strategy lacked fresh ideas and funding.

The Labor politician said: “If ‘leveling up’ was supposed to be the prime minister’s defining mission, I’m sorry to say it will be mission impossible with this light mush on offer.

“While there were some encouraging elements, it’s largely a rehash of things we’ve heard before.

“Overall though, it reads like a recipe concocted during Veganuary – something sorely lacking in meat.”

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said the missions were “solid”, but said the government needed to “write out a cheque” to deliver them.

Conservative West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the white paper would “finally resolve the imbalance of opportunity across the UK”.

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