Leveling up: the Treasury has sat on its checkbook and it shows

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OThe hitehall squabbles left the much-celebrated upgrade white paper long in words and short in deeds, officials said The Independent.

The full document has yet to be revealed, but an overnight government lead suggests it has changed little despite two delays.

After two years of anticipation, the White Paper on Leveling – has failed to show the ambition that many hoped for. Its declared objectives – the 12 missions – were well followed, in particular by The Independentwho reported on a leaked version of the document last year. Officials told the newspaper that there have been relatively few significant changes in recent weeks.

There’s a simple problem at the heart of the race to the top: There isn’t enough money to scratch the surface of regional inequality, according to many economists and local government experts.

Reading it, you have to wonder why the Treasury said no to injecting fresh money into the plans.

First, they took on The Economic History Lesson, an effort led by Andy Haldane, former chief economist at the Bank of England and adviser to Michael Gove’s upgrade department. It follows that the leveling fund has remained stubbornly pegged at £4.8 billion. Not significant in terms of macro-economic planning. A character in the small billions, compared to the trillions which economists have warned would be needed for this project – a ten-year rolling project according to the government – ​​to bear fruit.

There’s also the problem of focusing on place versus people, a warning issued on Tuesday by economics think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). People in the bottom 10% in terms of income receive a similar salary across the country. But they’re most likely to struggle the most in places with high living costs — like the Southeast, which isn’t often the focus of the upgrade campaign.

“It’s really important to remember in all of this that while high-paying jobs are unequally distributed, low-paying jobs, and therefore poverty, are not,” says IFS director Paul Johnson.

Regional economic planning is no small (or new) football in Whitehall. But what some hoped would be an enlightened new vision for marrying governance with industrial strategy turned out to be “a history lesson for a starter, thin soup for a main course and congratulations for the pudding”, a said a senior official.

For now, the white paper shows that the old mantra returns to Whitehall, one of the official texts: “Industrial strategy is dead. Long live industrial strategy (insert new buzzword here). »

The reinvention of leveling up is already underway. The Treasury is quietly trying to devise a new productivity plan for the UK: how to ensure that British workers produce more per hour worked in order to create the kind of golden loop growth that is not inflationary.

There are some hopes that if the Treasury puts some proper money behind it and gets more oversight of the project – many times the upgrade control – then this drive might prove more effective. But only if he can truly marry skills to jobs, and the UK’s twin trade and investment policies.

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