Mind the gap between levelling up ‘rhetoric and reality,’ think-tank warns

By William Eichler | 17 January 2022

Central Government policies have undermined the levelling up agenda and left the UK more regionally divided than ever, a new study has claimed.

The progressive think-tank IPPR North warned that the funding put aside for ending regional inequality ‘pales in comparison’ to what was lost through austerity measures brought in by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government.

It also warned that the country was becoming more centralised, with public spending concentrated in central Government. 

Regional divides are growing across a range of measures, according to IPPR North.

One example provided by the researchers to illustrate this deepening divide was that for every job created in the north just under three were created in London and the south-east.

Interim director of IPPR North, Arianna Giovannini, said: ‘Two years on from the promise to level up the country Government's rhetoric has reached fever pitch, but, in reality, they have, once again, over-promised and under-delivered on rebalancing our economy.

‘To succeed in levelling up, enabling people everywhere to live a good life, it will be necessary to build an economy hardwired for widespread prosperity, that powers the net-zero transition and provides everyone with access to high-quality lifelong education.

‘Broadening and deepening devolution, and building collaborative relationships between and across all levels of Government, are essential components of the levelling up jigsaw.

'But reorganising local government by the back door, false dawns, and further centralising power and funding would be a huge mistake and level down the country.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that IPPR North's analysis was ‘misleading’ because it only focused on one part of the Government’s investment in levelling up.

They said: ‘In addition to the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, we’re providing record investment in infrastructure worth over £96bn, £12bn in affordable housing and a £2.6bn Shared Prosperity Fund to help rebalance opportunity across the UK.

‘The Government will publish a White Paper that will drive forward this central mission in due course.’

For more from IPPR North click here

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