Is the Government making progress on levelling up?

Explore a timeline of policy announcements designed to achieve 'levelling up' by 2030

white and brown concrete buildings during daytime

What is being done to level up?

Over six months have passed since the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, the government’s flagship domestic policy agenda.

Levelling up” is intended to reduce regional inequalities across the UK by 2030 through an ambitious policy programme of 12 “missions”, ranging from housing to skills, which will deliver “meaningful, long-term change” to struggling places by driving growth and improving living standards.

Although ongoing political developments will undoubtedly fill news headlines in the coming months, it is important that delivering on the key policy commitment made in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto and ensuring policy continuity remain a priority for the new leader of the party. Otherwise, the promise to deliver economic growth and “level up” the UK will be a hollow one.

Levelling Up Policy Progress Tracker

Centre for Cities has written about the progress being made by government on the policy delivery phase of levelling up. As parliamentarians head to summer recess, we launch our Levelling Up Policy Progress Tracker. The qualitative data is taken from the website and summarises policy announcements by central government labelled under the “levelling up” banner, including policies announced before the White Paper’s publication but cited throughout it.

The intention is for this tracker to serve as a comprehensive, objective and centralised tool to provide details on every policy announcement intended to deliver “levelling up” across the 12 missions. We have included details on funding allocated to policies where possible.

Both the tracker and timeline below are a work in progress and will be updated on a monthly basis. To ensure we cover the full sweep of policies, we would welcome input from our audience in case we have missed any – please tweet our team @CentreforCities, and we can include your additions.

August 2022

3 August 2022 — £6 million funding to improve housing and support for vulnerable tenants in Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Hull

Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Hull councils will receive over £6 million from the government’s £20 million Supported Housing Improvement Programme to carry out more frequent and thorough inspections of supported housing.

Supported housing provides accommodation alongside care, support, or supervision for residents who may have experience of homelessness, mental health issues or domestic abuse.

The announcement follows successful pilots in the four council areas, which helped them carry out over 1,000 property inspections of supported housing. An independent evaluation found the pilot schemes had a positive impact on councils’ ability to manage their local supported housing.

1 August 2022 — York and North Yorkshire devolution deal

Over the next 30 years, £540million will be transferred from Westminster and Whitehall to invest in Yorkshire and drive growth
York and North Yorkshire will establish a combined authority, electing a directly elected mayor to be directly accountable to the city region’s population.

North Yorkshire Council, a single new council for the region, will operate from April 2023, replacing the current county council and seven district and borough councils. The new authority will bring together existing council services, working in close partnership with City of York Council to unlock a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire.

New powers to improve and better integrate local transport, including the ability to introduce bus franchising, control of appropriate local transport functions e.g., local transport plans, and control of a Key Route Network.

An integrated transport settlement starting in 2024/25 and an additional £1 million to support the development of local transport plans.

New powers to better shape local skills provision, including devolution of the core Adult Education Budget, as well as input into the new Local Skills Improvement Plans.

New powers to drive the regeneration of the area and build more affordable homes including compulsory purchase powers and the ability to establish Mayoral Development Corporations.

Over £13 million for the building of new homes on brownfield land across 2023/24 and 2024/25, subject to sufficient eligible projects for funding being identified.

June 2022

14 June 2022 — Initial bid from local council leaders to form an East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority

Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council have submitted a joint bid to form an East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority.

The leaders of the four councils sent initial proposals to negotiate a combined devolution deal in March, after being named as pathfinder areas by the Government and being invited to apply for a devolution deal.

The councils have proposed the devolution of powers and funding across transport and infrastructure, economic development, inward investment, regeneration, employment and skills amongst other policy areas
— If the proposals are approved, the first election for a regional mayor covering for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire could be in May 2024 (according to Derby City Council's website).

April 2022

19 April 2022 — Skills for Jobs White Paper introduces Local Skills Improvement Plan trailblazers

Set up across England to set out the key changes needed in a place to make technical skills training more responsive to skills needs.

15 April 2022 — Funding work placements and training for 16 to 24-year-olds in England

The chancellor announced an extra £126m in March 2021 to fund work placements and training for 16 to 24-year-olds in England.

Covid has been particularly bad for younger workers, and has also increased the incentives for companies taking on apprentices.

Apprenticeships fell in 2017-18 following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and are still well below the level they were at that point.

13 April 2022 — UKSPF launched

The Government announced the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU structural funding. The Fund is worth £2.6bn over the period to 2024-25. The Fund will ramp up to £1.5 billion in 2024-25, including Multiply – this means it will only hit EU levels of funding in 2025.

Its primary goal is to build pride in place and increase life chances across the UK.

Examples of allocations: Greater Manchester is set to receive £98million over the next three years from the fund - but over the previous three years the city benefited from £150m in EU cash. Likewise, Liverpool City Region previously received £80m, but under the new allocation it will get £52m.

13 April 2022 — £270million investment in Multiply programme as part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Multiply is an adult numeracy programme intended to level up people in England who lack a GCSE grade C/4 or higher in Maths, as part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund designed to spread opportunity around the country.

Employers who could benefit from boosting their workforce’s skills will be able to work with their Local Authority and training providers to deliver Maths GCSEs or work-ready Functional Skills Qualifications as well as design and deliver bespoke programmes for their workforce – at no cost to them.

Up to £559million in total to be invested across the UK to support the delivery of the Multiply programme.

4 April 2022 — £7bn package to level up buses outside of London

City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements to level up local bus, tram, rail, walking and cycling networks in England’s 8 city regions, allocating £5.7bn to Manchester, Liverpool, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire.

£200m for almost 1,000 new electric or hydrogen buses.

£150m for Covid recovery support for buses as patronage stalling continues.

£1.1bn for Bus Service Improvement Plans (given to Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, Reading, Norfolk, Luton, York, Warrington).

4 April 2022 — £1.6billion National Skills Fund investment in adult skilling from 2022 to 2025

Introduced to help improve the skills levels for workers to fill the gap sought by employers and to support economic recovery.

Includes up to £550million to expand sector-specific Skills Bootcamps, and investment to expand the eligibility for free level 3 qualifications to more adults.

Offer available to adults earning less than the National Living Wage (£18,525) or who are unemployed. This is regardless of their prior qualification level.

2 April 2022 — Supporting Families Programme for vulnerable families to help children have a better start in life

To improve the living standards and reduce the gap in opportunity and wellbeing for disadvantaged children in the UK, the fund includes:

  • £99.8million for helping care leavers stay with their foster families after they turn 18
  • £36million for supporting care leavers to live near their former children’s home
  • £36.4million for personal advisors to support care leavers up till the age of 25
  • £302million for Family Hubs and Start for Life programme, for which 75 local authorities are eligible

March 2022

31 March 2022 — £15.9million to Croda in West Midlands vaccine manufacturing facility

Part of the Global Britain Investment Fund.

28 March 2022 — Schools White Paper

Schools will offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours by September 2023.

Ofsted will inspect every school by 2025, including the backlog of ‘outstanding’ schools that haven’t been inspected for many years.

By 2030 all children will benefit from being taught in a school in, or in the process of joining, a strong multi-academy trust, which will help transform underperforming schools and deliver the best possible outcomes for children.

At least £100m to put the Education Endowment Foundation on a long-term footing so they can continue to evaluate and spread best practice in education across the country.

25 March 2022 — £4m Community Housing Fund to deliver 1,200 new affordable homes across England

To help regenerate derelict areas and restore pride in place
managed by Community Led Homes Partnership to meet individual community needs.

For example, in Bradford – the fund will help deliver 62 supported homes for people with autism, learning disabilities, or dementia.

14 March 2022 — £39.8billion R&D budget for 2022-2025 to help deliver the government’s Innovation Strategy

The largest ever R&D budget to support the government’s ambition to be a science superpower and reach total R&D investment of 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

A significant proportion of the budget has been allocated to UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), which will receive over £25billion across the next 3 years, reaching over £8.8billion in 2024-2025. This will include an increase in funding for core Innovate UK programmes by 66% to £1.1billion in 2024-2025, helping connect companies to the capital, skills and connections they need to innovate and grow.

The budget also includes full funding for EU programmes, for which £6.8billion has been allocated to support the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training, and Fusion for Energy. If the UK is unable to associate to Horizon Europe, the funding allocated to Horizon association will go to UK government R&D programmes, including those to support new international partnerships.

UK Space Agency’s budget will grow to over £600million.

February 2022

24 February 2022 — £1.5billion Levelling Up Home Building Fund

Providing loans from £250,000 to small and medium sized builders and developers to deliver 42,000 homes, with the vast majority going outside London and the South East.
Examples of innovative projects which require funding could include:

  • Serviced plots for custom and self-builders
  • Off-site manufacturing
  • New entrants to the market
  • Community-led housing projects
  • Groups of small firms working together to deliver larger sites

7 February 2022 — £179million of Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Wave 1 successful bid awarded

69 projects have been offered a share of £179million to upgrade 20,000 social housing properties below EPC C rating.

7 February 2022 — 20 transformational projects through £1.5bn Brownfield Fund

Wolverhampton and Sheffield will be the first of 20 places that will be supported by the government to deliver ambitious regeneration projects:

In Wolverhampton, local leaders are being given the tools that will catalyse the revival of the city and the wider Wolverhampton to Walsall corridor, building on the government’s £20million Levelling Up Fund investment and the new DLUHC headquarters in the city centre.

In Sheffield, new regeneration opportunities will capitalise on the government’s £37million Levelling Up Fund and the upcoming Integrated Rail Plan electrification and upgrades.

17th March: Blackpool announced as third of the 20 “King’s Cross style” transformational projects.

October 2021

27 October 2021 — £1.4billion Global Britain Investment Fund

Budget announcement — the Fund will provide grants to encourage internationally mobile companies to invest in the UK’s critical and most innovative industries, including life sciences and electric vehicle development.

1 October 2021 — Freeports

First announced in 2019; eight freeports established to be “hotbeds of innovation, hubs for global trade, and promote regeneration”.

Located across England (Teeside, Essex, Felixstowe and Harwich, Hull, East Midlands Airport, Liverpool, Plymouth, Solent) with the promise to establish at least one freeport in each of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Freeports determine that a zone is outside of the UK from a tariff perspective, meaning that if a business imports a good, adds to it (for example, a car manufacturer importing parts and constructing a car), and re-exports it, there will be no import duties to pay.

August 2021

5 August 2021 — £520million Help to Grow

Made up of two initiatives to support SMEs’ recovery from the pandemic through the provision of management training and adopt digital technologies:

  • HtG Management: mini-MBA management training;
  • HtG Digital: discounted software and support to adopt it; new online platform with free advice on tech.

March 2021

19 March 2021 — £5billion Project Gigabit Launch

To provide one million hard-to-reach homes and businesses in the first phase.

£210million of vouchers to give people in rural areas immediate help to access gigabit-capable speeds.

Up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit as part of ‘Project Gigabit’.

8 March 2021 — £130million to tackle serious violence and homicide

£64million for existing 18 Violence Reduction Units, and for creating 2 new units in Cleveland and Humberside.

£30million for the ‘Grip’ police enforcement programme.

8 March 2021 — £4.8billion Levelling Up Fund

To invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.

The first round of successful Levelling Up Fund bids totalled £1.69billion awarded October 2021 — Round 2 has not yet been awarded (the prospectus was published 23 March 2022).

There are ongoing delays with the web portal for the Round 2 application submissions, the original deadline of which was 6 July but has been delayed.

8 March 2021 —£3.6billion Towns Fund

£2.35billion allocated to 101 towns in July 2021 through Towns Deals. Further allocations TBC.

8 March 2021 —£150million Community Ownership Fund

To help ensure that communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support and continue benefiting from the local facilities, community assets and amenities most important to them.

8 March 2021 —£220million Community Renewal Fund

To help local areas prepare for the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022

This Fund aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches and will invest in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment.