Greg Clark set to press ahead with levelling up plans

Greg Clark commits to government’s levelling up vision and vows to continue Michael Gove’s work
04 August 2022 , By Steve Smethurst

Chairman of the LGA welcomes Clark’s appointment but calls for more sustainable funding for local welfare support services and more help making households financially resilient

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has confirmed that the department will continue to progress all its legislation currently in Parliament. This follows the appointment of Greg Clark as Secretary of State in early July 2022.

Mr Clark took over from the sacked Michael Gove and previously served as secretary of state for communities and local government from May 2015 until July 2016. His role involves overseeing local government, planning and building safety across the UK.

A DLUHC spokesperson confirmed that Clark is committed to the “vision and direction that has been set for the department”. This includes reforming the private rented sector, improving social housing conditions, protecting leaseholders from unfair bills to make their homes safe and levelling up communities across the UK.

Clark said he was “determined to press full-steam ahead” with levelling up as he opened applications for the second round of the Levelling Up Fund. In a change to the process, MPs will be able to provide support to two bids that benefit their constituencies in recognition of the fact that many MPs’ constituencies cover more than one council area.

In terms of building safety, Mr Clark cited the Building Safety Act and said that his predecessor was “absolutely right” in his drive to ensure that companies should fix the buildings they played a part in constructing. He added that more than 45 of UK’s major housebuilders have pledged an estimated £2 billion to the fund.

Clark’s appointment was welcomed by Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA). However, he called for more sustainable funding for local welfare support services provided by councils and a greater focus on strengthening households’ financial resilience. He added that empowering councils with further authority to bring vacant properties back into use is an “encouraging step”, saying that the LGA would work with the DLUHC to ensure that these are “simple, inexpensive and effective for councils to use”.

“At a time of resource constraint across government, it is questionable what additional value a new Office for Local Government will provide.”

Jamieson was less enthused by the plans to create a new Office for Local Government “to strengthen innovation and the use of data”. He said: “At a time of resource constraint across government, it is questionable what additional value the Office will provide.”

He also highlighted the importance of financial sustainability for councils. He said: “Since council budgets were set last November, rising energy prices, spiralling inflation, and National Living Wage pressures are set to add £2.4 billion in extra cost pressures this year alone.

“Councils need certainty that they will be able to continue providing the services their communities need. Clarity on local government finance reforms such as the Fair Funding Review, business rates reset and the New Homes Bonus would also be welcome, to ensure no authority loses out.”

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

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