Levelling Up – What Is it and Will It Work?

(Main Photograph courtesy of Freepik.com)
If you are a Gamer, you will have heard of “level up.”  It means advancing from one level to another. So, what does it mean when the government uses the term “Levelling Up”?
There are many innovative high-growth and fast-growing companies across the UK however, there are significant disparities in social and economic circumstances between London and the home counties and much of the rest of the UK. For example, the Government has mainly invested heavily in Research and Development in the Southeast. Their plan now is to spread investment more evenly across the rest of the UK, in the economy, education, housing, transport etc. Allowing other regions of the UK to “level Up,” although not all will.
How will they do this? Firstly, there is a commitment to hand over the decision making (devolution) to councils and their communities in respect of what will most benefit that area and the people who live in it. However, somewhat counter intuitively the current situation is that each council has to bid to Central Government for funding to support their projects. Central Government then decides. In many cases this also circumnavigates the Combined Authorities.
Levelling up is meant to boost productivity, pay, jobs, create opportunities and help build pride and a sense of community, and is meant to be for the long-term but is that possible? It is intended  to address poverty, health and educational inequalities. (Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1052046/Executive_Summary.pdf
Kevin Parkes Co Founder of WhatifGroup is Middlesbrough’s former Executive Director of Regeneration and had a massive impact on Middlesbrough in his 17 years of service. He believes that the areas regenerational’ issues will not be solved by one or two specific projects, the problems of the area are much deeper. He states, “What is needed is a cross-party, long-term – 25-years plus – properly financed commitment to Teesside. Government needs to spend less time obsessing on the process and more about a clear strategy for the future of the area.”  (You can read the full article here https://www.bigissuenorth.com/features/2022/02/a-dead-letter/) (Source : Big Issue North 14th- 20th February 2022)
As Kevin has suggested – a cross party agreement needs to be put firmly in place so when there is a change in government, the already planned levelling up projects don’t cease to exist. Therefore, there needs to be a reform of government and UK governance.
Kevin is of the view that the challenges of levelling up are going to be huge and way beyond the likely levels of Government funding available in forthcoming years. Therefore, it is essential to use public investment to stimulate the private sector to invest at much greater levels.
The government has set 5 pillars to create a new policy regime (Source: Levelling Up – White Paper Executive Summary)
  • First, the UK Government is setting clear and ambitious medium‐term missions to provide consistency and clarity over levelling up policy objectives.
  • Second, central Government decision‐making will be fundamentally reorientated to align policies with the levelling up agenda and hardwire spatial considerations across Whitehall.
  • 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.
  • 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.
It is expected that the improvement in information and decision-making incentives will strengthen the institutions driving the local transformation. (Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1052046/Executive_Summary.pdf
How do they fund this? There is a £2.6billion UK shared prosperity fund to help improve communities, place people and skills. They also intend to remove the beurocracy of old EU funding, empowering local leaders to channel funds that will best support their own priorities. This is the time for local government to build its networks to help them design and plan sustainable projects that will enhance their towns and cities providing long term, economic growth, improved housing and environments for people to live, work & play. This is also the time that local governments could benefit in partnering with businesses like the WhatIfGroup who are already ahead of the game with their PPP Strategy and Place First Economics Framework. This fits perfectly with the government’s “Levelling Up” strategy as it provides, long term sustainable solutions to town centres, incorporating partnerships from Public, Private, 3rd and 4th sector businesses. A community working in collaboration for the betterment of itself. See articles on Whatif Group website: – PPP STRATEGY PAPER Jan 21 V4 02/03/21  And – Place First Economics by Director of the Whatif Group – Paul Wright 16/10/21
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