Turbulent times! The UK is under financial pressure and human stress.

Will the “Levelling up”programme now be possible? Local government is creaking under further austerity. Social care makes up onaverage 50% of local government spending and is ringfenced. That means even deeper cuts to non-ringfenced services – further town centre service cuts! Schroders launches £1bn Impact Fund aimed at UK’s most deprived towns-Finally, an awakening?
A good indicator of the economy is how the Retail sector is fairing? UK GDP fell anestimated 0.2% in the third quarter of 2022, following a rise in quarter two. Retailsales fell by 2%. It’s important to recognise the data for September was affected by the death of Her Majesty the Queen, where some businesses closed while othersoperated differently. There was no report of growth in services activities with falls in the wholesale retail trade and other service activities. This is believed to be due to the cost-of-living rise in energy prices which is impacting on households. Production fell by 1.5%, with the latest data showing a 2.3% fall in manufacturing out-put. (Source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/september2022)
Certainty ‘Levelling Up’ played a less significant role in the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, and it was clear that the fiscal strategy is one of expenditure constraint and balancing the books of a heavily overspent Exchequer. It is therefore counter intuitive to see how Government can both reduce expenditure / increase the tax base and yet provide the level of support required to deliver the portfolio of projects that have been presented to Government for Levelling Up Funds.
Without this major fiscal support does this spell the end of the Levelling Up process? The Levelling Up Housing Committee (LUHC), has begun its evidence session for its enquiry into the funding to support levelling up. It will be examining the funds available and how effectively the resources are being directed into areas. The focus is on:
  • Access to and delivery of funding.
  • Exploring how far the government’s approach to funding initiatives, like
  • Investment Zones, contribute to the Levelling Up of the country.
(Source: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/levelling-up-housing-and-communities committee/news/174300/are-levellingup-funds-getting-to-the-areas-that-need-it-levelling up-committee-begins-inquiry/)
The Committee began its review on Monday 14th November, to examine the allocation of resources and focus on the many different funds available. They will also investigate how initiatives like the investment zones, contribute to the levelling up objectives for the UK. (Source: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/15709/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/)
So, what do we know about where these funds have already been placed? There are some major projects already in motion. There is a significant regeneration project in the relocation of Blackpool’s magistrates and County Courts buildings to a central location which was at risk due to a lack of funding and also, risked the entire £300 million Central private sector-led regeneration scheme. The Government has injected £40 million as part of the levelling up programme. It is estimated it will create 1000 jobs and attract 600,000 more visitors to the seaside town each year in a massive boost to the local economy. Local council Leader Lyn Williams says “This isa real example of joined up government at its best….” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/levelling-up-investment-unlocks-300-million-blackpool-regeneration)
The Government has recently made some amendments to the Levelling Up Regeneration bill The Government Levelling up Regeneration Bill(source:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-bill-to-level-up-the-nation), which were tabled in parliament, giving power to local people. The new measures will follow the Government’s BIDEN principles:
  • making sure new development is Beautiful.
  • supported by the right Infrastructure.
  • a more Democratic system where communities have their say.
  • enhances the Environment.
  • and creating better Neighbourhoods shaped by the people who live in them
With Levelling Up funding likely to be on the wane, many local authorities’ aspirations will be in jeopardy. There will be a need to look to new, creative ways of raising the finance to deliver. The WhatIf Group have, since their formation, promoted Public Private Partnerships bringing together the best attributes of both the public and private sectors. These Principles are already embedded into the ethos of the Whatif whose Place First Economics that enables those who are successful in bidding for the Levelling Up fund, to optimise the opportunities by capturing the investment and skills of the private sector to turn their projects into a reality and be sustainable for the long term. (https://reverent-kirch.91-238-163-161.plesk.page/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Place-First-Economics-2021-003.pdf) addresses all of the measures raised in the Government’s BIDEN principles. They have developed a strategy (https://reverent-kirch.91-238-163-161.plesk.page/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PPP-STRATEGY-PAPER-Jan-21-V4.pdf)
We have long awaited the launch of impact funds, targeting deprived areas,delivering social impact and embracing circular economy. Schroders announcement of a £ 1bn impact fund is music to our ears and creates the perfect private sector partner to a town centre PPP. Can this be the silver bullet to the future of town centres? – if set up correctly, we believe the answer is yes. A future where interdependence of the public and private sectors leads to a healthier future and more human capitalism.
If you would like to speak to someone at the WhatIf Group to learn more, please contact Paul Wright  paulwright@whaifgroup.io or Kevin Parkes kevinparkes@reverent-kirch.91-238-163-161.plesk.page
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
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