The UK Government has made progress towards spreading opportunity around the country since 2019, alongside mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic, but there is still work to be done. The recently released ‘Levelling Up the United Kingdom’ White Paper sets out the next stages in the programme to level up the UK.
The contemporary set out ‘Medici’ model, a 21st century recipe for a new Industrial Revolution, all depends on harnessing an array of interventions and catalysing a range of sectors. Levelling up will require:
a. Boosting productivity, pay, jobs, and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging.
b. Spreading opportunities and improving public services, especially in those places where they are weakest.
c. Restoring a sense of community, local pride, and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost.
d. Empowering local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency.
System Change: A New Policy Regime for Levelling Up
This new policy regime is based on five mutually reinforcing pillars.
First, the UK Government is setting clear and ambitious medium‑term missions to provide consistency and clarity over levelling up policy objectives. These will serve as an anchor for policy across government, as well as catalysing innovation and action by the private and civil society sectors.
Second, central government decision‑making will be fundamentally reoriented to align policies with the levelling up agenda. This will require greater transparency around the geographic allocation of funding and simplification of local growth funding, and it will mean extra resources being deployed to local areas.
Third, the UK Government will empower decision‑makers in local areas by providing leaders and businesses with the tools they need.
Fourth, the UK Government will transform its approach to data and evaluation to improve local decision-making. The Office for National Statistics’ Subnational Data Strategy aims to improve the UK’s subnational data, mapping local economic geographies and helping improve transparency and accountability to the public.
Fifth, the UK Government will create a new regime to oversee its levelling up missions, establishing a statutory duty to publish an annual report analysing progress and a new external Levelling Up Advisory Council. The Council will support Ministers by advising on the design, delivery, and impact of the levelling up policy.
Over time, these five pillars acting in combination aim to improve the information and incentives facing decision-makers locally and nationally and strengthen the institutions driving local transformation. The economic prize from levelling up is potentially enormous. If underperforming places were levelled up towards the UK average, unlocking their potential, this could boost aggregate UK GDP by tens of billions of pounds each year. The White Paper is the catalyst for delivering a long-term programme of change to unlock the potential of people and places in every part of the UK.
Read the full White Paper here.