Levelling up; why top Whitehall mandarin should be heeded on skills – The Yorkshire Post says

IT is Gus O’Donnell’s past experience as Whitehall’s top mandarin that makes his intervention on levelling up policy all the more compelling – and timely – in a week that saw Sir Kevan Collins, the Government’s ‘schools catch-up tsar’, quit over funding and a perturbing lack of ambition.

Lord Gus O'Donnell was Cabinet Secretary to three prime ministers.

As Cabinet Secretary to three prime ministers, Lord O’Donnell was by the side of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and then David Cameron as they took difficult decisions. As the head of the Civil Service, his discretion was always assured and explains why they all still hold him in such high regard.

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Yet, given that it is incredibly rare for such esteemed figures to intervene on policy, particularly domestic matters, even more credence should be attached to Lord O’Donnell’s essay in The Yorkshire Post on the importance of key skills to this region’s future prospects.

Skills are the key component to the levelling up agenda, writes Lord Gus O'Donnell in The Yorkshire Post this weekend.

No one has a better insight into how the wheels of government turn – or do not in this instance. No one also has a greater understanding of the day-to-day pressures facing premiers, hence the total absence of personal criticism.

But Lord O’Donnell cares passionately about his country and his view that skills matter as much to the much-vaunted levelling up agenda than new infrastructure is one that will be shared by most major employers. As he implies, Yorkshire’s greatest asset is its people and they need empowering if they’re not to pay the price for low numeracy and literacy skills in comparison to other parts of the country.

Pressure is growing on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson after Sir Kevan Collins resigned as Education Recovery Commissioner.

It is a view that this newspaper also highlighted as part of the Power Up The North campaign. The challenge is reversing this imbalance when catch-up plans for schools have been condemned as derisory, when the Government’s levelling up objectives remain unspecified and when Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is simply dismissed as a figure of fun.