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The PM's "levelling up" plans need to be more targeted to prevent deprived areas being "short-changed", say peers.

Boris Johnson has made the pledge a central part of his election campaigns, promising to invest in "every part of the UK".

But the Lords Public Services Committee said inequality would grow if money for the NHS, schools and councils was not protected.

A government spokesman said its plans would have "a real impact" on lives.

They also said a white paper would be published later this year to set out "bold new policy interventions".

But the committee said it needed to be released urgently to avoid the suggestion money is being channelled into Conservative seats - something the government denies.

The report added: "Without full transparency and political accountability, local areas will continue to question why they have missed out on 'levelling up' funding while others have benefited."

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The Conservatives first promised to "level up" the country in their 2019 election manifesto, and have used the phrase multiple times since Mr Johnson moved into No 10.

The plan involves investing in transport, skills and businesses in multiple places, from cities to rural and coastal areas, to address regional disparities in the UK.

Earlier this week, the government announced the latest raft of "levelling up" schemes, including an £18m extension to its Opportunity Areas programme - helping young people make up lost learning time from the pandemic - and moving more civil servants out of Whitehall to work in different towns and cities.

But writing to the prime minister with its report, the committee pointed to accusations the government had favoured "prosperous rural areas with funds ahead of deprived communities", and said its strategy "does not recognise high levels of deprivation in many parts of the country, including parts of London".

'Major change'
Labour peer Baroness Armstrong, who chairs the group, said the plan would need to be more "holistic" to work.

She added: "A white paper - which should be published urgently - is welcome, but it's unclear exactly what the government wants to level up, how much its strategy will cost, how long it will take and how it plans to achieve its goals.

"The strategy will require a major change of direction if it's to achieve its admirable ambition for people in 'left-behind' areas to have the same opportunities as elsewhere in the country."

The committee also called on the government to work with local services and their users to set targets for improving things like life expectancy, employment, literacy and numeracy of children starting school, and the number of entrants to higher education.

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