This week Michael Gove had his capability – or more specifically his ability to spend cash – pulled from underneath him.

Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has been banned from making spending decisions on new capital projects unless given specific permission from the Treasury. This comes after concerns over the ability to “deliver value for money” and the “delivery of the flagship policy to reduce regional economic divides”.

A government insider noted how it was triggered specifically because of a speech made by Gove at the Convention of the North, where he announced £30mn to fund improvements to substandard housing. Treasury officials had blocked Gove from announcing a large pot of local grants in the same speech, but up until now, the department had been allowed to sign off new capital spending up to £30mn. But now, any spending decision, however small, even a “park bench” as Labour have teased, must get a green light from the Treasury.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow DLUHC Secretary asked on Thursday for clarification if these points are true, but Junior Minister Lee Rowley refused to answer, saying that the “overall” budget will not be changing and underlined the Department’s “commitment to the levelling-up agenda”. But actions – and money – speak louder than words.

Interventions like this are usually reserved for departments where the Treasury has particular financial concerns, but in this case, appears more like political posturing ahead of the budget, and a lack of political resolve behind the agenda itself.

The lack of priority for the Levelling-Up agenda from the government is further outlined by the fact that according to a Whitehall source, Gove was supposedly sounded out for the new Science and Technology job, as Sunak sees it as more senior than Levelling Up.

The problem with taking power away from the Department tasked with addressing regional inequalities, is that England is already one of the most centralised and regionally unequal countries in Europe. It is DevoConnect’s view that the way to spread power and prosperity across the country is by allowing those closest to the service to decide how and where to spend money.

This goes to the heart of decision-making in Britain, where the Treasury wants to do it all. But even if HMT was as efficient as possible, it would not be able to get through this number of cases in time. Therefore, it makes sense to delegate and devolve, but sadly people don’t want to relinquish power and control. This should not be about posturing or political manoeuvring but improving outcomes across the country.