I Will Level With You…

There is no escape from Levelling Up.  Michael Gove, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, unveiled the “government’s flagship” Levelling Up White Paper on 2 February 2022.  We have included a link to the document below, but as it runs to 332 pages you might appreciate a summary.

Objectives and Evidence

The paper discusses the evidence base and establishes four objectives for levelling up the UK: boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector, especially where lacking; spreading opportunities and improve public services, especially where weakest; restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially where lost; and empowering local leaders and communities, especially where they lack agency. Laudable aims.

The evidence base looks back through history, as far back as 7000BC, at the factors that drove the growth of cities.  It looks at relative productivity, earnings, skills, health, disposable income and life satisfaction across the UK.  There are regional differences, for example the shocking differences in life expectancy between the London and South East and the North East and Scotland, but in many cases there are great disparities within areas, particularly for life satisfaction which is highly granular. The UKs second tier cities are found to underperform relative to international comparators.  

12 Missions

The proposed solutions are based around five mutually reinforcing pillars.  The pillars involve: setting 12 ambitious medium-term missions; reorientating government decision making to align with the levelling up agenda; empowering local level decision makers; improving data collection and evaluation; and creation of a new regime to oversee levelling up missions. Each mission sets 2030 as the date by which identified improvements should be achieved.

The missions are organised to relate to the objectives. Missions related to boosting productivity, pay and living standards require:

1)     increased living standards across the UK;

2)     a minimum 40% increase in public investment in R&D outside the South East;

3)     public transport standards closer to London’s; and

4)     nationwide 4G and 5G broadband. 

Missions related to spreading opportunities and improving public services require:

5)     90% of primary school children meeting the expected standards in maths, reading and writing;

6)     200,000 more people completing high quality skills training annually;

7)     healthy life expectancy to rise by five years and gaps between areas to be closed; and

8)     well-being to be improved across the UK and gaps between areas to be closed.

To achieve a sense of community, local pride and belonging missions require:

9)     that satisfaction with town centres and local culture and community rises across the UK with the gap between top and bottom performing areas closing;

10)  increased first time buyers and non-decent rented homes to fall by 50%;

11)  serious violent crime and neighbourhood crime to have fallen, focussed on the worst affected areas.

Empowerment of local leaders and communities will be facilitated with:

12)   a devolution deal for anyone that wants one with a simplified funding settlement.

It is hard to argue with the White Paper.  The missions are sensible and ambitious. Kings Cross style regeneration is coming to Wolverhampton and Sheffield! What is not always easy to identify, despite the length of the paper, is how it will all be achieved in practice and with what funding.  However, it is obvious that robust data collection and evaluation will be essential to measure success and inform future strategies. 

Planning will have a part to play but decision making across the board will need to align with the pillars and missions to ensure success.

The Levelling Up White Paper can be found here:

Posted on 03/16/2022 by Ortolan

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