No 10 dismisses calls for independent oversight of Tory ‘Levelling Up’ plans

Establishing independent oversight of the Tories' proposed Levelling Up plans would "not be standard practice”. That's kind of the problem...

10 Downing Street

The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said there are “no plans for independent oversight” of the government’s so-called levelling up plans – despite clear evidence of pork-barrel politics in previous efforts.

In the face of a raft of sleaze allegations, the No 10 spokesperson told journalists today that establishing independent oversight of the Tories’ proposed Levelling Up plans would “not be standard practice”.

It comes as ministers announced that a new White Paper – led by the Prime Minister – will be published later in the year, to ‘focus on challenges including improving living standards, growing the private sector and increasing and spreading opportunity’.

The government’s £3.9bn Towns Fund was recently heralded as the way to level up the ‘left behind’ parts of the country. Civil servants made recommendations as to which towns needed the extra funding, with 541 towns considered, and put in order of need.

Of 101 towns picked, ministers took over the decision-making for 61 – applying their own ‘qualitative analysis’ to pick the winners.

It follows analysis by the Manchester Evening News which showed that, of the towns in the running, “nearly a quarter…serve some of the most knife-edge seats in the country – those requiring a 1pc swing or even less to move them from Labour to Tory, or vice versa.”

Ministers may have their pick of billions to be spent on the forthcoming Levelling Up plans – triggering a potential deluge of electioneering and cronyism with public funds.

Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, has been appointed the PM’s ‘Levelling Up Adviser’. He said: “Levelling up has been a real passion of mine for many years, and I’m incredibly excited by the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“After such a challenging year, there has never been a better time to unite and level up the country. It’s absolutely crucial that we bring opportunity to every single part of the UK by making sure our spending, tax, investment and regeneration priorities bring about meaningful change.”

‘Every single part of the UK’, or Tory target seats? We’ll see. Or perhaps, if there’s no scrutiny, we won’t.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

PS: In the same lobby briefing, attended by LFF, the PM’s spokesperson refused to deny Boris Johnson asked Conservative donors to pay for childcare. Labour’s Angela Rayner said: “We are seeing what looks like another cover up from the Prime Minister, who is trying to hide his attempts to fund his lifestyle through secret payments from wealthy Tory donors.”

It’s also emerged that a former aide to Boris Johnson advised him on new planning laws while being employed by two major property firms. Nothing to see here…

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