Al fresco dining and takeaway pints to drive new levelling up strategy

Takeaway pints and al fresco dining are at the centre of Boris Johnson’s plan to level up the country, the Prime Minister will reveal in a speech next week.

Mr Johnson is set to launch a new strategy to regenerate high streets under the umbrella of levelling up, which was touted in the 2019 general election as a drive to fix regional inequalities in the UK and which Downing Street said was the “central purpose of (Mr Johnson’s) premiership”.

The speech will kick off a summer of consultations before the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper in the autumn.

Boris Johnson in London
Boris Johnson during a visit to the offices of energy company Bulb in central London (Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA)

A Government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister is determined to level up the UK and deliver a fairer, stronger society – one where whatever your background and wherever you live, everyone can access the opportunities they need to succeed.

“While talent and potential is distributed evenly across this country, opportunity is not.

“That’s why, as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that we do not make the mistakes of recovery from the financial crash and seize this moment to ensure a better quality of life for people in every part of the UK.”

The Prime Minister is expected to announce a new high streets strategy which will include al fresco dining, which has been widespread during the pandemic, becoming the norm.

Pavement licences are to be extended and then made permanent, with the aim of making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to set up tables outside and serve more customers.

Temporary permissions for pubs to serve takeaway alcohol are also set to be extended for 12 months, in what is hoped to be a boost to the hospitality industry.

In his speech, Mr Johnson will vow to tackle the inequalities and divisions the pandemic has entrenched.

No 10 said he will cover creating a more balanced economy with high-quality jobs in every part of the UK, levelling up between generations, increasing access to opportunity no matter where people live, investing in infrastructure and skills, strengthening community and local leadership, restoring pride in place, and putting local needs at the heart of the Government’s approach.

But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The Conservatives have choked the life out of our high streets, slashed funding for our young people, and acres of playing fields and football pitches have been dug up and concreted over.

“We all want life to get back to normal, but a few chairs outside cafes isn’t going to fix the glaring inequality that scars our communities because of the Tories’ wrong priorities.”

She added: “After a decade of failure and broken promises, no one can believe a word this incompetent Prime Minister says. His rhetoric never matches reality.”