After all, Leeds is the largest city in western Europe not to have any form of light rail and this could come as quite a shock to DfT officials accustomed to the London Underground. The question, however, is whether they relocate here – or simply commute to their department’s ‘Northern hub’ after Birmingham was named as the location for the DfT’s “second HQ”.
This is certainly not the relocation of entire Whitehall departments out of London, as The Yorkshire Post and others advocated, and which Ministers appeared to endorse. Yet, while it is another vote of confidence in Leeds, this decision – and Boris Johnson’s new bus revolution – fail to mask an incoherence at the heart of plans to tackle regional inequalities.
Not only is there little clarity over the objectives of its so-called ‘levelling up’ strategy, but there’s disturbing evidence at how the Towns Fund and Levelling Up Fund appear to be favouring Tory seats, or electoral targets, rather than the areas with the greatest disadvantage.
This has seen a debate about ‘levelling up’ or ‘sprucing up’ morph into open about cronyism – even more so now that details of Penistone and Stocksbridge’s apparent preferential treatment are coming to light. That’s why Ministers must offer total transparency this week before they risk lasting reputational damage to two flagship funds that were set up with good intentions.
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