Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up Contents


1.On his appointment as Prime Minister in July 2019, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP said in a speech, on the steps of Downing Street, that he would “answer the plea of the forgotten people and the left behind towns” and “level up across Britain” by unleashing the “the productive power not just of London and the South East but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.1 Since that speech, levelling up has become a key objective for the Government, and was a major theme of both the 2019 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto and the 2021 Queen’s Speech. In May 2021, Neil O’Brien MP was appointed as Levelling Up Adviser, a Levelling Up Unit shared between Number 10 and the Cabinet Office was established, and a White Paper on levelling up is expected later this year.

Our inquiry

2.On 3 June 2020, we launched a major inquiry into Post Pandemic Economic Growth intended to run for the duration of this Parliament.2 The inquiry has multiple strands, the first of which was on industrial policy in the UK, and we published our report on 28 June 2021.3 Immediately after our final evidence session in that inquiry, the Government abolished the Industrial Strategy, and announced the Plan for Growth in its place.4 That plan described the levelling up agenda as the Government’s “most important mission”:

tackling geographic disparities; supporting struggling towns to regenerate; ensuring every region and nation of the UK has at least one globally competitive city; and above all, strengthening the Union.5

3.We launched our inquiry into levelling up (as the second strand in our Post Pandemic Economic Growth inquiry) in July 2020.6 We took evidence from representatives of Local Government and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). We also heard from Rt Hon Andy Burnham, Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, as well as other regional and city mayors, regional powerhouses, and Lord Kerslake, who, as Chair of UK2070, had been tasked by the Government to report on regional inequalities. On behalf of the Government, Minsters Paul Scully MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets), and Luke Hall MP, Minister of State (Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government), gave evidence.7 We thank all of those who contributed both oral and written evidence to our inquiry.

4.Since we launched the inquiry, political commentators,8 fellow Parliamentary Committees9 and witnesses to this inquiry10 have criticised the levelling up agenda. They have commented on both its lack of clear definition and strategic direction, and on the fact that there are therefore no criteria or forms of measurement for evaluating progress or success. This report aims to try to unpack this major policy initiative and explore these criticisms. We assess what levelling up seems to mean, how the Government aims to achieve it, who will deliver and oversee delivery at both a national and local level, how progress towards success will be measured and what a ‘levelled up’ UK might actually look like.

1Boris Johnson First Speech as Prime Minister” Downing Street press release, 24 July 2019

2Post-Pandemic Economic Growth super-inquiry launched by BEIS Committee” BEIS Committee press release, 3 June 2020

3 BEIS Committee, First Report of Session 2021–22, Post-pandemic economic growth: Industrial policy in the UK, HC 385

4Build Back Better: our plan for growth” HM Treasury press release, 3 March 2021

5 HM Treasury, Build Back Better: our plan for growth, 3 March 2021, page 8

7 A full list of witnesses is attached at the end of the report

9 Treasury Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2019–21,: Economic impact of coronavirus: the challenges of recovery, HC 271; House of Lords, Report of the Public Services Committee, Session 2020–21, Levelling Up Position Paper

10 UCL (LRS0001), Core Cities (LRS0062), Confederation of British Industry (LRS0017)

Published: 22 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement