Rebrand levels up housing ministry as ex-Bank chief named as task force head

New 'levelling up secretary' Michael Gove promises 'relentless focus' on government's flagship policy as he takes over at MHCLG
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The housing ministry has been rebranded as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with a new task force established to aid new secretary of state Michael Gove’s focus on the government’s flagship regional growth agenda.

The announcement comes shortly after Gove was moved to the then-Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government in last week's cabinet reshuffle.

Andy Haldane, the former Bank of England governor, has meanwhile been appointed the head of the Levelling Up Taskforce, a 15-strong group of officials that works with the No.10 Delivery Unit and leads work on the levelling up white paper.

Haldane has been appointed as a Cabinet Office permanent secretary on a six-month secondment from the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce for the role. He has been chief executive of the RSA since June.

Haldane previously led the Industrial Strategy Council, an independent body set up to advise the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on then-prime minister Theresa May's flagship policy in 2018.

A report published by the ISC last year said levelling up would require "wide-ranging devolution" and "sustained and large-scale public investment".

The task force will report to Gove and the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Johnson said Haldane is “uniquely qualified to lead our efforts to raise living standards, spread opportunity, improve our public services and restore people’s sense of pride in their communities”.

“I look forward to working with him, and with my new ministerial team, to deliver the opportunities this country needs,” he said.

Gove said he was “thrilled” to take on the levelling up brief, which he called the “defining mission of this government”.

“With a superb team of ministers and officials in a new department, our relentless focus will be on delivering for those overlooked families and undervalued communities across the United Kingdom,” he said.

Gove will also take on the title of minister of intergovernmental relations, working with the government’s territorial offices and devolved administrations.

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and Neil O’Brien, a backbencher and former special adviser to ex-chancellor George Osborne, have been appointed as ministers at the new-look department.

O’Brien was named the PM’s levelling up adviser earlier this year.

They join housing minister Christopher Pincher, homelessness and housing minister Eddie Hughes and Lord Greenhalgh, a joint minister at the department and the Home Office.

It is understood that Gove has been told not to expect a large influx of cash with which to achieve his new ministry’s goals.

He will have to negotiate DLUHC’s three-year budget on the basis of sacked housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s submission to the Spending Review, Sky News reported at the weekend. The Treasury has told incoming ministers they will be expected to negotiate their bids based on their predecessors’ bids despite there being more than a month to go until the review announcement, the outlet reported.

Last week, Treasury spending chief Cat Little told MPs departments would be expected to make cuts adding up to a 5% saving across the board in the Spending Review.

The Department for Health and Social Care will get extra cash as a result of the National Insurance levy announced this month, meaning that other departments will have to make cuts greater than 5% to maintain that average, Little told MPs.

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