What does 'levelling up' mean for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and will it make any difference?

Michael Gove
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove says the plan will plug the skills gap in some areas Credit: PA
  • After the government published a document promising to 'transform the UK' and close the North-South divide, ITV News political correspondent Harry Horton asks whether it will make any difference.

What does ‘levelling up’ mean?

That question has followed the government ever since Boris Johnson introduced the slogan during the 2019 general election.

As ministers have made more and more pledges to ‘level up’ Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, its definition seems to have grown longer and longer.

One of the biggest problems is too many skilled young people leaving home because they can’t find enough well-paid jobs where they've grown up.

In Grimsby, fewer than one in five children go to university, compared with one in three children from London. 

Far fewer children in Grimsby will go on to university than in London Credit: ITV News

Riley Gelder, a sixth-form politics student at Tollbar Academy in Grimsby told ITV News: "I've grown up here. I don't want to move. But if I can't find a job here, then what am I supposed to do?"

Today we got the government’s plan to fix these problems. More than 300 pages of it in a government white paper.

Levelling up is about rolling out more 4G and 5G coverage, improving public transport, education, health, housing, pay, skills, devolution, pride of place and tackling crime. It sounds a bit like government.

Depending on your perspective, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove’s mega-document is either a flagship, once-in-a-generation transformation in how government works or a confused, scattergun approach to a policy desperately in need of a clear focus.

There are some key details for our region: York and North Yorkshire, Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and Hull and East Yorkshire will be invited to get a metro mayor, similar to Dan Jarvis in South Yorkshire and Tracy Brabin in West Yorkshire.

Sheffield is one of twenty areas with money to spruce up its city centre.

Cranes over Sheffield city centre Credit: PA

Mr Gove said his plan would help plug the skills gap in our region: "One of the things that we're clear about in the white paper is the importance of making sure that FE is aligned to the needs of local employers. 

"And in Grimsby and indeed in North East Lincolnshire there is a chance now as part of the renewables revolution led by the business secretary to make sure that new jobs, investment and FE and a recognition of the link between the two can ensure that in Grimsby you can stay local but go far."

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Dan Jarvis isn't so sure.

He says without new money, the government's plan won’t make much difference: "There are measures within it that I welcome, but the prime minister just recently referred to the transformation in eastern Germany. 

"That was accompanied by massive resource. And the plan that the government brought forward hasn't been accompanied by any real new, significant money for the North of England."

Both Labour and the Conservatives agree that reducing regional inequalities is an urgent priority for the government.

Both government and opposition have their eyes firmly fixed on how to help people in our region. Let’s see if reality ever matches the rhetoric.