Levelling Up Bill... Suspended?

After recent events causing a downfall in the UK government,the new Levelling Up Bill has been deemed ‘impossible’ to realise due to the current chaos. With the extent of recent ministerial resignations including the resignation of Boris Johnson, the future of the Levelling Up Bill is up in the air – is this the end of the road?

Michael Gove (Levelling Up Secretary), who has been the driving force behind the Levelling Up Bill, was sacked on the 6July 2022 and has been replaced in the short-term by Greg Clark – whopreviously acted as Minister for Communities & Local Government in 2015,and who will lead a department which during recent events was reduced to 1 ministerthrough resignations.

Until the Conservative leadership race is concluded and the new prime minister confirms their new cabinet it is impossible to know whether Greg Clark will remain in place or is acting simply as a stop-gap. There is some discussion that if current front runner Rishi Sunak were to win the race then Gove may return to his previous role. It is suggested that if Clark remains in place then he will put his own ‘spin’ on the newly proposed planning reforms in a hope to further progression on the Levelling Up Bill. However at the current time the Bill has been suspended at Committee Stage pending the outcome of the current Conservative leadership election, expected to conclude by early September. Therefore its future is uncertain.

The Levelling Up Bill was already proving contentious prior to its suspension, with core wrangling around the proposals to centralise power in a series of ‘National Development’ policies. Just prior to his sacking Michael Gove sent a letter to the DLUHC chair attempting to address these concerns. He said:

“the Bill will do much to strengthen the role oflocally-produced plans, will not undermine their primacy as frameworks for local planning matters, and will make it easier for communities to engage and have confidence in them.”.

“The Bill and our supporting work will make planning more accessible, more transparent, and will deliver better outcomes for the people it serves.”.

In a recent interview, the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer stated “to level up you need to have a positive case for changing the economy”.However, with such uncertainty in the Government and a new Prime Minister to be announced on September 5 2022, it is clear that the Levelling UpBill will remain out of focus for some time.

Despite all the chaos of resignations across the Government,the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is to remain even without Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. However, the new leader will no doubt look carefully at the different elements of the Bill and we may see further significant changes before it goes to the Lords.

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