Levelling up—meaning, in our view, the spreading of economic and social opportunities more evenly across the country—is laudable and should be a priority for any Government.
However, whilst recognising the understandable impact the pandemic has had on Government capacity, we are disappointed at how little detail has been put forward to explain what the Government sees levelling up to mean and how it will be delivered.
It has been a year since we launched our inquiry—during which time we have received submissions from the Government, including oral evidence from the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government Ministers, and considered the Queen’s Speech—but we have not received adequate answers to any of our basic questions.
In this context, it is understandably unclear who is responsible for delivering levelling up. We took evidence from powerhouses, regional mayors, city mayors, local councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and Chambers of Commerce, all of whom asked for urgent clarity from the Government.
We are concerned that this lack of definition will result in a failure to deliver meaningful change for people across the country, and that a failure to publish Government priorities and metrics will make it impossible for us to understand what has, or has not, been delivered.
As such, we have made several recommendations to Government, including recommendations to:
The levelling up agenda has been described by the Government as its ‘most important mission’. It is now imperative for Ministers to translate this from a political promise into a deliverable programme for Government. The forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper, which we understand will now include the previously announced Devolution White Paper, gives the Government the opportunity to be bold and progressive. We look forward to its publication and, in future, engagement with Ministers on their delivery of levelling up.