The Treasury is set to open three new offices, including a major economic campus in the north of England, as part of the government’s "levelling up" agenda to boost investment outside London and the south east, Rishi Sunak has said.
In an interview ahead of the Budget on Wednesday, the chancellor also announced plans for a consultation on possible changes to the government’s Green Book investment rules intended to support greater investment in the north and Midlands.
This will be led by the creation of a Treasury “economic campus” in the north of England, as well as new offices for the first time in Wales and Northern Ireland, according to Sunak.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The Treasury is an important institution in government, it drives investment decisions and it should reflect what is required in every part of the country, and this new economic campus is a significant step in helping us deliver that.”
No further information has yet been released on the implications for Treasury civil servants, and if any existing staff will be required to move to the new bases.
Asked how he would define the government’s policy of levelling up, Sunak said it was about more than just infrastructure investment.
“Levelling up people take to mean we will build a bridge here or a road there, but to me it is about spreading opportunity. It is making sure that wherever you live in this country, you can fulfil your aspirations.
“I’m keen to make sure that opportunity is equally spread and we can fulfil everybody’s dreams and aspirations. That’s what levelling up means to me.”
Asked how people should monitor the government’s progress on levelling up in four years' time, Sunak said statistics would show the government shifting investment around the country. He said the work would also generate “a feeing people have that where they happened to be born or where they happen to grow up is not going to be the determinant of how well they do in life”.
"That’s because we have been providing them with opportunities, whether it's though education or skills or through better bus connections that get them to a better job. We’re doing all of that, and that’s meant that their life is better off, and they feel that their aspirations are being realised. That’s how I’m going to measure it.”
It was reported in January that then-chancellor Sajid Javid would back a plan to create a northern base and to revise the Green Book.
Investment decisions are currently based on guidance that calculate economic return, known as gross value added. However, research has found that this policy has contributed to the productivity divide between the UK’s regions as it has led to calcuations that investment in the already more prosperous south east of England has a greater economic benefit than investment elsewhere in the country.