Boris Johnson appoints levelling up adviser to 'go further' with agenda promised in 2019

The Prime Minister has appointed a new levelling up adviser amid fears the election-winning agenda has faltered without any way to measure progress.

Neil O'Brien. Photo: UK Parliament

Harborough MP Neil O'Brien has been given the role, as Downing Street said a new levelling up white paper would published later this year.

At a Westminster briefing today, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he would not preempt the upcoming Queen’s Speech by setting out metrics by which the levelling up agenda could be measured.

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He said: “We're making multi-billion pound investments to transform the country's prosperity and spread opportunity already.

“And we have the opportunity to go further, and that's the work that Neil O'Brien's taken up.

“We've got a number of announcements and things already under way in line with the levelling up agenda, be it the £600bn we're investing over the next five years to transform infrastructure, the £4.8bn levelling up fund, [or] investing £25m more than 100 English towns for upgrades for high streets and transport.”

No 10 also said the new white paper would replace the delayed devolution white paper which had been expected last year.

But asked how the Government would measure success of the agenda first set out in December 2019, the PM’s spokesman said: “I think it's a bit early. When we set out the white paper I will have exact policies that [we] are working towards and obviously as ever, the public will be able to make judgments on success.”

Mr O’Brien, who is originally from West Yorkshire, said: “Levelling up has been a real passion of mine for many years, and I’m incredibly excited by the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“After such a challenging year, there has never been a better time to unite and level up the country. It’s absolutely crucial that we bring opportunity to every single part of the UK by making sure our spending, tax, investment and regeneration priorities bring about meaningful change.”

Mr O’Brien, who was a special adviser to both former Chancellor George Osborne and Prime Minister Theresa May, is understood to have played a key role in the development of the Northern Powerhouse project.