Levelling up needs to get real - but so does our response to it

By Neil McInroy | 03 February 2020

Levelling up is the latest buzz phrase being bandied about to address the stark divisions and variations in economic performance across the country. Whilst it is welcome that the government seems to be concerned by this unacceptable state of affairs, we must view with some scepticism a new phrase landing upon a problem which has deep and longstanding roots. We have indeed fallen far – research undertaken by CLES has shown that many of the regions and nations of the UK have spent time in recession through recent years. We need to get real about levelling up – the scale of the challenge facing us, and the structural factors that underpin the problem.

Levelling up follows a long list of attempts by successive governments to address this national economic imbalance. These notions were first touched upon way back in 1918 by the Haldane commission. Since then we have seen attempts by the Barlow Commission in 1940, the industrial policies of Labour’s Wilson government, 30 years of economic development policy and regeneration activity and, more recently, the devolution agenda of the coalition and Conservative governments of Cameron and May.

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