The chancellor must go beyond warm words

By Sarah Longlands | 02 March 2021

As Rishi Sunak prepares to level with us in Wednesday’s budget, many of us will be waiting for him to come clean on levelling up, starting with an acknowledgement of just how unlevel the UK was, even before the pandemic, and why.

In recent weeks, there have been suggestions that our regional divides are overstated and that levelling up is needed everywhere – a national rather than a regional challenge. Subsequently, a centralised rather than a devolved response will suffice. However the real challenge of levelling up is not measured by how your economy reacts to a crisis, but how it recovers. What we know from previous recessions is that in regions like the North, recovery will take longer. Underlying economic and social challenges, as well as a decade of austerity (which saw cuts of 20% to local authorities in the North, hitting local places’ economies) mean that our region’s resilience, and ability to bounce back, is constrained.

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