Boris Johnson will unveil plans Wednesday for a significant decentralization of power from Whitehall over the next decade to support the government’s strategy to “level the playing field” in the UK.
The long-awaited 400-page white paper will outline the prime minister’s efforts to help “abandoned” areas of the country that voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum and backed conservatives in the 2019 election.
Johnson is under pressure to turn his equalization slogan into clearly defined policies to narrow regional inequalities. The White Paper is likely to be criticized for not including new government funding.
The prime minister has promised “the largest transfer of power from Whitehall to local leaders in England today” by 2030, following the creation of Greater Manchester and Teeside in Northern England.
The White Paper invites nine English counties to apply for county transfer deals, including Cornwall and Durham. Some existing mayors will be offered additional powers similar to those in London.
The document also sets a new goal of increasing government spending on research and development by at least 40 percent by 2030 in a bid to boost productivity.
Although the government has previously announced money to support its equalization program – such as the Urban Fund – the White Paper relies on allocations in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review last year.
Efforts to help abandoned communities that have missed out on economic prosperity have been hampered by a decade of cuts in local government.
The Institute for Government think tank said central government subsidies to councils were reduced by 37% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-2020.
Johnson will commit to ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to the same opportunities, while warning that change “cannot be dug overnight”.
Michael Gove, the equalization secretary, said that “for decades, too many communities have been neglected and underestimated”, adding that the United Kingdom is like “a single-engine jet”.
Gove told the BBC that the proposed policy changes were “absolutely critical” for the country, which is “too centralized” and relies on “London elites”.
Lisa Nandi, secretary for shadowing, said: “Ministers have had two and a half years to fix this and all we have been given are more slogans and strategies, with a few new ideas.
She added: “Boris Johnson’s response to our communities calling for change is to relocate the deckchairs – new government structures, recycled pots of money and a small refund of the money this government has taken from us.
The document will also announce three “innovation accelerators” to boost local business in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the Glasgow City region.
Twelve policy objectives will be introduced into legislation and will be overseen by a new equalization advisory board, including Sir Paul Collier, a professor of economics at Oxford University, among other members.
These goals include: reducing the gap in healthy life expectancy; reduction of homicides and severe violence; improving the satisfaction of people from urban centers and local culture; raising the level of skills training; providing fast coverage of the 5G network for the majority of the population; and improving local transport and connectivity.
The government will publish another white paper later this year on tackling health inequalities. Gove announced that Homes England, an independent government agency, would be redeployed to help rebuild urban centers.