Levelling up director hopefuls waited a year before being told jobs scrapped

Photo: Associated Press/Alamy Stock Photo

By Caitlin Doherty

26 Oct 2023

Applicants hoping to secure six-figure salary jobs as part of the government’s proposed levelling up director scheme had to wait almost a year between their final interview and being formally told that the scheme had been scrapped, it has been revealed.

The 12 proposed jobs, advertised with salaries up to £144,000, would have seen individuals appointed across nine English regions, and one each for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But last spring, then-levelling up minister Dehenna Davison confirmed that the roles would be scrapped. 

The concept of levelling up directors was first introduced in the policy’s white paper, released early last year. The directors would have been expected to “act as a single point of contact for local leaders and a first port of call for new and innovative local policy proposals,” the white paper said. 

The official recruitment campaign was launched in March 2022, and according to information from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities obtained by CSW's sister publication PoliticsHome under Freedom of Information laws, the first-stage panel interviews were conducted on 12 and 13 May 2022, around 14 weeks after the white paper was released. 

Second-stage interviews were then carried out on 10 June of the same year. But it was not until 9 May 2023, a year after the first stage interviews, that candidates who had made it to the second round were told by the department that the appointments were not going ahead. 

It is understood that following the interviews last year, the process was reviewed, as was considered alongside how the department wants to work with places across the UK to deliver levelling up. 

The process of appointments had been beset by delays. In January, DLUHC said the “robust” process to fill the positions was “still ongoing”

However, days later, Davison told a committee of MPs that the roles were subject to review. 

“We want to make sure that when we put directors in place they are doing the right work and we have got the right people there," she told the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee," she said. 

Candidates who put their names in for the jobs were able to select numerous regions in their applications. 

The most applications were received for the London region, with 109. There were 88 people who applied for the position in the northwest, and 83 each in both the southeast and southwest.

Sixty-nine applications were entered for the West Midlands, 62 for Yorkshire and the Humber and the same number for the North East. 

There were 55 entrants for the job in the East of England, 51 in Scotland, and 49 in the East Midlands. Wales and Northern Ireland received the fewest applications, with 41 and 45 respectively. 

Writing in response to a parliamentary written question earlier this year, then levelling-up minister Dehenna Davison said that the department believed that the agenda would best be delivered “by working directly with mayoral combined authorities, local government, and devolved administrations”. 

Davison wrote: "There were over 500 applicants, but – given the wider departmental changes – Ministers have decided not to proceed with the appointment of the directors."

Caitlin Doherty is a journalist for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared

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