Last week (Wednesday February 2), the government finally released its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, designed to help flesh out a flagship policy which was credited with helping Boris Johnson and the Conservatives win the last election by convincing former Labour strongholds to vote Tory for the first time.
In what was seen as a policy blitz to attract attention elsewhere, as the Prime Minister comes under huge pressure over the partygate allegations, which could well see the end of his premiership, the Housing Secretary Michael Gove set out the plans to rid the UK of its historical regional imbalances.
In total, the White Paper included 12 so-called missions, focusing on matters such as housing, health, transport, wellbeing and broadband.
The 12 missions were as follows:
1. By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing;
2. By 2030, domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth;
3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing;
4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population;
5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third;
6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas;
7. By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years;
8. By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing;
9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people's satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing;
10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50 per cent with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas;
11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas;
12. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.
The private rented sector, in particular, featured heavily, with confirmation of the government’s plans to scrap section 21, consult on a national landlords register, and crack down on rogue landlords, while all homes in the private rental sector will have to meet a minimum standard to be known as the Decent Homes Standard.
The Levelling Up White paper was met with praise and scorn in equal measure, but for many landlords and investors it was met with further questions and frustration.
Alan Thomas, UK chief executive at Simply Business, said the government’s eagerly anticipated Levelling Up Strategy risks feeling like a damp squib for the UK’s landlord community.
“Introducing a national landlord’s register and minimum standard for rental properties is a positive step forward, but the government must ensure these measures aren’t too costly for landlords to implement,” he said.
“Let’s not forget that landlords have felt the strain of multiple tax changes in recent years. With increasing levels of red tape for landlords to wade through, and half (51%) of landlords having lost rental income due to Covid-19, further legislation risks a mass exodus of the buy-to-let market.”
He added: “Fundamentally, everybody has the right to a decent home with a reputable landlord so the move to crack down on the minority of criminal operators is welcome. Yet we can’t forget the role the 2.6 million UK landlords play in our communities, offering much-needed accommodation to over 4.4 million households, plus an enormous economic contribution of over £16 billion annually.”
“So it’s vital that more Levelling Up detail is provided soon to prevent the current uncertainty becoming a major economic and societal problem.”