BORIS Johnson’s signature ‘levelling up’ agenda is vague and confused, and may “fail to deliver meaningful change for people across the country”, MPs have warned.

The cross-party Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee said the lack of clarity risked an incoherent “everything and northing policy”.

The committee said it was "disappointed" at how little detail had been put forward to explain what levelling up actually meant and how it would work on the ground.

It said there was a lack of definition on how the UK Government was going to achieve levelling up, an absence of detail on how success would be measured, and confusion over who was leading on delivery.

It urged the Government to set clear priorities and benchmarks to measure progress, and ensure already well-off councils didn’t dominate bids for extra funding.

The Tory 2019 general election manifesto promised a “levelling up every part of the UK – not just investing in our great towns and cities, as well as rural and coastal areas, but giving them far more control of how that investment is made”.

However in his first keynote speech on the policy last week, the Prime Minister struggled to nail down what the policy meant, other than more devolution in England.

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He said town leaders should have “the tools to make things happen for their communities”.

He admitted he was offering a “skeleton” of plans, reeling off such a long list of things that could fall under the umbrella term - including infrastructure, policing, education, and football pitches - that his critics called it “gibberish”.

With Tory MPs spoked by the Liberal Democrats winning the recent Chesham & Amersham byelection, Mr Johnson insisted helping the deprived parts of northern England would not be to the detriment of the affluent south.

He said: “Levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation, it’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s not zero sum – it’s win-win for the whole United Kingdom.”

Darren Jones, chair of the BEIS Committee, said: “Last week, the Prime Minister flunked his opportunity to explain what levelling up is and instead revealed that the Government has failed miserably in translating a political soundbite into a deliverable programme of Government.

“Previous Governments, of all political stripes, have sought to tackle the regional inequalities which exist in our country.

"For levelling up to be more than a political soundbite, it’s crucial the Government’s White Paper sets out what levelling up is, what the policy priorities are, and how Whitehall will work with local and regional government to deliver meaningful change for people and communities across the country.

"Levelling up was a major part of the Governments offer to the British people at the last election, but it appears every possible funding stream from government – be it about bus stops or football pitches is labelled as for levelling up.

"If levelling up is going to mean something above and beyond the normal day-to-day work of government, the Prime Minister needs to set out how he’s going to pay for it.

“Regional and local devolution in England is incoherent and inconsistent. 

“If we are going to create a more equal economy for people across the country, the Government must explain how local councils, mayors, powerhouses, local enterprise partnerships and other organisations will be given the powers and capacity to deliver; and, crucially, what will happen in parts of the country that don’t have powerhouses or mayors.”

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The committee’s report said: “Despite this focus on levelling up as a central theme in Government discourse, there remains a distinct lack of clarity as to what the Government actually means by levelling up, and subsequently, how the success or otherwise of the Government’s policy aim of levelling up can be assessed and evaluated.”

It added: “To date, the Government has provided no overall strategy for the agenda or a vision for what a levelled-up UK might look like in the future.”

MPs said it was unclear whether the amount of money promised was enough to even equal, let alone exceed, historic levels of UK and EU funding to local government.

And that “given the Government’s own focus on its levelling up agenda, the lack of clarity around its meaning and how it translates into specific policy initiatives and strategies is stark”.

The report warned: “As it stands, levelling up risks becoming an everything and nothing policy.”

Mr Johnson appointed Tory MP Neil O’Brien as his levelling up adviser in May and has promised a Levelling Up White Paper later in the year.

The PM’s official spokesman insisted that the speech had defined levelling up, and added: “Obviously there’ll be more to be said on levelling up when we come out with our white paper later this year.”