In February 2022, the Government published its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, framed as a ‘plan to transform the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity to all parts of it’. The paper presents an ambitious, decade-long policy agenda to change the UK’s economic geography and narrow the country’s regional inequality.
Levelling Up should improve standards of living across the country and help every place to reach its productivity potential, with a focus on improving the performance of the UK’s biggest cities as a means to address regional inequalities.
He says bigger and bolder funding packages will be needed to make the changes required. pic.twitter.com/aABFeHJKWB
— Centre for Cities (@CentreforCities) January 19, 2023
Explore the questions below for Centre for Cities’ thinking and analysis.
The publication of the Levelling Up White Paper was followed by more than 100 days of inaction, with the government showing little progress on delivery.
Policy continuity on levelling up must remain a priority, otherwise the promise to deliver economic growth and address geographic inequalities across the UK will be a hollow one.
The Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 included the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, outlining measures in the levelling up agenda that require legislation in order to be delivered.
Focusing on two of the four levelling up objectives, namely empowering local leaders and improving pride of place, this bill proposed;
To assess whether the Levelling Up White Paper measures up against its core goal to spread opportunity more equally across the UK, Centre for Cities interrogated the publication against five criteria.
We looked at whether there was a clear mission statement; if the White Paper was strategic; what evidence there was of a long-term plan and long-term funding; and if there were clear metrics for measuring success. Our recommendation is that the paper commits to a period of consultation over the coming months, to sharpen up the arguments in it and set out what it wants to do beyond 2030.
Based on Centre for Cities’ comprehensive body of research on levelling up, we have summarised two overarching goals of what the Government’s levelling up policy agenda should strive to achieve for people and places across the UK.
Clear metrics are crucial to the success of the Government’s flagship policy agenda. We have outlined three key metrics that will ultimately measure whether levelling up has been achieved.
Cities and large towns in Northern England and the Midlands are among the places most in need of levelling up. Many lag far behind places in the Greater South East of England on a range of levelling up measures. For example:
Levelling up has been referred to as the defining mission of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Government. The department responsible for the delivery of the flagship policy agenda is the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, led by Levelling Up Secretary of State Michael Gove.
Centre for Cities analysis – drawing on lessons from German reunification – has highlighted that for levelling up to be successful and long-lasting the agenda should establish programmes that have cross-party support and so are independent of changes in Government.
At the centre of the Levelling Up White Paper is the systems reform chapter. This essentially marks the end of the beginning of devolution in England, confirming the status of mayors as permanent parts of the constitution in England and outlining a roadmap for English devolution which lays out the future of local government in England.
On August 1 2022, the first of the devolution deals set out in the White Paper came to fruition. It was announced that York and North Yorkshire will welcome a directly-elected mayor with a devolved range of powers and responsibilities to better address the specific needs of the region.
The mismatched geography of the new East Midlands devolution deal will make the new mayor's job much harder.
While it seems levelling up has lost momentum, devolution is the one part of the agenda that continues. Here’s what other areas can learn from today’s York and North Yorkshire announcement.
The data shows that devolution deals will widen differences between places, but this should not be a source of concern
To level up left behind places the Government should move away from centrally controlled funding pots and devolve power and money to local leaders. However, there are several areas where the Government and local areas should focus spending to level up:
A collection of insights and analysis looking at the Government's position on levelling up.
To pass the Nissan test, policies will have to address the reasons for why knowledge-intensive activities do not locate in the parts of the country the policies are attempting to target.
Investment zones will need to help struggling places offer something different to businesses, rather than doubling down on what they already have, if they are to improve their fortunes.
Paul Swinney reflects on Liz Truss’s first speech as PM, outlining how levelling up can play into her pro-growth goals and how she can use the agenda to the UK's advantage.
Part three of our levelling up event series, this time focussing on what's next for levelling up under Prime Minister Truss.
Following the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, Centre for Cities research team provided commentary on its contents from a range of different urban policy perspectives.
Yesterday’s white paper is good in its intentions, but falls down on its longer-term vision and funding to support this
The indicators and datasets in the white paper show the challenges of tracking levelling up in near real time, but it is ambiguous about the how to measure the progress across different places
Director of Policy and Research Paul Swinney assesses the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper
While the white paper's inclusion of ambitious and measurable targets across education, skills, and health is welcome, the programmes laid out aren’t sufficient.
Cosmetic interventions alone will not revitalise our high streets. To truly level up, the onus must be placed on making city centres better places to do business, in turn boosting footfall and consumer demand.
A collection of our most prominent work on the Government’s levelling up agenda, covering the nature of the challenge faced, proposing actionable policy solutions and offering a framework for success.
Here's everything you need to know about the Levelling Up White Paper.
In advance of the Government’s forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper, this briefing sets out what the levelling up agenda should aim to achieve and a strategy for achieving it.
This report outlines how Mayors provide the Government with the opportunity to develop a new effective set of regional economic development policies to level up across the country and contribute to increasing the UK’s rate of economic growth.
This report examines whether intra-urban public transport plays a role in the underperformance of big British cities and sets out the implications that transport has for the levelling up agenda.
Andrew Carter speaks to policy experts Will Tanner, Carys Roberts and Nick Bowes, to get their views on what should be included in the upcoming Levelling Up White Paper.
A collection of views from urban leaders across the country in advance of the Levelling Up White Paper.
Centre for Cities’ recent research has explored in-depth the lessons that policymakers can learn from the German experience when it comes to levelling up the UK economy.
UK policymakers can learn lessons from the German experience to help level up the UK economy
Andrew Carter is joined by three experts to discuss what the German experience can teach the UK about levelling up.
Our levelling up podcast mini-series explored the regional inequalities that different parts of the UK face, with a focus on which policies the Government should implement to bridge these divides and level up the country.
Analyst Valentine Quinio discusses the challenges faced by our high streets and city centres, and how the levelling up agenda should support them.
Director of Policy and Research Paul Swinney on the effects of austerity and the policies needed to reverse them.
Senior Analyst Elena Magrini on what the Government needs to do in skills policy to level up the UK.
Researcher Tom Sells on how to reform the transport system to level up the UK's largest cities and towns.
Our levelling up events have welcomed city leaders, policy makers and leading thinkers to unpick the levelling up dilemma from various angles.
An online panel discussion focussing on the first 100 days of the Levelling Up White Paper and what needs to happen next.
Part three of Centre for Cities series of Realising Regional Growth events exploring what the Levelling Up programme means in reality for local economic growth around the country.
Centre for Cities’ hosted the first in a new series of regional events exploring what the Levelling Up programme means in reality for local economic growth around the country.
The second in our series of regional events exploring what the Levelling Up programme means in reality for local economic growth around the country.
A panel discussion on what the recently-published Levelling Up White Paper means for devolution and the implications this has for the future of local government in England
We reflected on the contents of the Levelling Up White Paper, discussed which policies have been prioritised, and debated the agenda’s commitment to delivering meaningful long-term change.
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A common sentiment in struggling towns is that they’ve been overlooked by government in favour of places further south, but this isn’t the source of their problems.
The UK and Ireland are both worried about land banking, but the common denominator is their planning systems.
Centre for Cities tracks the latest unemployment claim statistics across the UK's cities and largest towns.
Just because northern towns and cities have a strong manufacturing past doesn’t mean they are well placed to attract manufacturing jobs of the future.
Three lessons that should guide the development of the Chancellor’s remoulded investment zones.
This latest podcast episode unpacks the findings of our latest report published with HSBC UK which maps out the current geography of the new economy.
The Government should commit to a £14.5 billion 10-year innovation and growth package for Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.
The UK’s new economy clusters in cities in the Greater South East with Cambridge, Reading and Milton Keynes leading the pack.
This report maps out the current geography of the new economy and calls for the creation of a £14.5 billion growth package to build innovation districts in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.
Labour’s new report is asking the right questions, but it needs a few more pieces to reach a complete solution to the puzzle.