This autumn the Government will publish its Levelling Up White Paper, which will set out how it intends to deliver on a slogan that has been the keystone of commentary and vision for its domestic policy.

This White Paper and the clarity it intends to bring will be much welcome. While the Government speaks frequently of levelling up, it is as yet undefined, which has meant that ministers have struggled both to articulate what it means and what they hope to achieve when questioned.1

There have been a number of policies badged under the levelling up banner, such as the Levelling Up Fund and freeports. But the lack of definition and strategy for delivering on a well-defined aim has meant that policy action so far has boiled down to ad-hoc pots of money or, in the case of freeports or the civil service campus in Darlington, symbolic prizes for a handful of areas. These policy actions have not matched up to the Government’s stated ambition in its recent Plan for Growth to have one internationally competitive city per region.

This briefing sets out what levelling up should aim to achieve and a strategy for achieving it. It argues that it should look to improve living standards and opportunity everywhere, especially in places where it is lagging on a range of metrics, but that key elements should be focused on the underperformance of cities.


  • 1 For example, see Public Services Committee (2021), ‘Levelling up’ and public services: Position paper, London: The Stationery Office; Payne S and Giles C, ‘Confusion over the UK “levelling-up” plan prompts Boris Johnson to hire new adviser’, Financial Times, 3 May 2021.