From the moment the Prime Minister came into office, he’s shown his determination to level up the country and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they live.
The importance of that mission has only been thrown into sharper relief and its urgency accelerated by the pandemic.
We have set out plans for reform in technical education, schools, the environment, on housing and planning, broadband, transport and across the field of Government.
Tackling these challenges isn’t easy. Real change rarely is. To achieve these goals we need Government to change itself and to lead by example by becoming less London-centric.
So for the first time ever, Ministers are moving beyond Whitehall, with a dual headquarters outside of London. My department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government will be opening its new HQ in the great city of Wolverhampton. I will be bringing Ministers, senior civil servants, and decision makers with me and recruiting many more locally.
You will be as likely to meet Ministers and senior civil servants to discuss the issues of the day in Wolverhampton as in Westminster. It’s only right that as the department leading efforts to level up MHCLG makes those decisions in the communities we seek to serve. As Michael Gove said last year, “wouldn’t it be better for those deciding how taxpayers’ money is spent to be living and working alongside those citizens?”.
Even when moving beyond Whitehall, Government often gravitates to our biggest cities. But this neglects so many other great places, some of which have been undervalued and neglected hitherto.
Growing up outside of Wolverhampton, Birmingham – not London – was the big smoke that we visited occasionally; London was another country. So we have chosen a smaller city, albeit one with a very rich past and ambitious plans for the future. One only has to walk the streets of Wolverhampton and see the civic architecture inherited from our predecessors, and from the redevelopment of its Canalside station quarter to the sporting powerhouse of the Molineux Stadium, to see a city that is packed with potential.
We should be actively raising the stature of our cities, including smaller ones such as Wolverhampton, and promoting their exciting plans to attract more investment and jobs.
Wolverhampton means a lot to many of us in the government. It holds many happy childhood memories for me. And the Prime Minister started his career at the Express & Star. We want to ensure the city achieves its potential. Bringing part of government to the West Midlands has many advantages. No one should need to leave home and go to London to work in the senior reaches of our Government. For too long, it’s been the case that the best opportunities in politics and the civil service, particularly those at the most senior level, are predominantly accessible to people based in the capital – narrowing the talent pool considerably. Well, no more.
We will be bringing hundreds of jobs to the region – with MHCLG increasing the number of staff in the West Midlands to 500 by 2025. But it is also obtaining greater depth and breadth in our decision makers. Half of our senior civil servant jobs will be based in the regions by 2030. I’m proud to be making this investment in Wolverhampton and I hope and expect it will be followed by other Government departments – many of whom have their own exciting and ambitious plans for other parts of the country. There is no reason why any young person living in Wolverhampton could not walk past a Government department and aspire to be part of it.