Levelling Up aims labelled too ambitious by think tanks

Think tanks have called the government’s Levelling Up strategy overly ambitious, saying there’s a lack of clarity on how the Conservatives hope to achieve their aims.

The government’s aims have been labelled highly unlikely to be met”, “piecemeal”, as well as lacking “focus” and “finance”.

The upcoming White Paper will broadly focus on reducing regional inequalities across the UK, investing in infrastructure like housing outside of London and the South East.

There are also measures to improve the quality of education and transport across areas like the Midlands and the North.

There are 12 ‘levelling up’ missions, which are:

• To up pay, employment and productivity in every part of the UK, to close the gasp between the best and worst performing cities.
• Improving public transport to be “significantly closer to the standards of London”, with integrated ticketing and simpler fares.
• A “significant” increase in primary school children reaching expected standards in reading, writing and maths.
• An increase of high-quality skills training across the UK. In England, the target is for 200,000 more, including 80,000 in the lowest skilled areas.
• Narrowing the life expectancies across the UK, with the overall average healthy life expectancy rising by five years by 2035.
• Improving perceived wellbeing in all parts of the UK, with a narrowed gap between areas with the highest and lowest levels.
• For more people to feel a “pride in place”, defined as “people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community”, with a narrowing of gaps between areas with the highest and lowest levels.
• More first-time home buyers in all UK areas. The number of homes deemed non-decent to fall by 50%.
• A reduction in homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime, focused on worst-affected areas.
• A devolution deal for “every part of England that wants one”, with powers “at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement”.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, seemed cynical regarding the government’s aims.

She said: “The target set to be set to be outlined in today’s white paper to close the gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas over the next decade, while welcome, is extremely ambitious. It appears the government has failed to grasp the enormity of the challenge.

“A healthier and fairer society needs secure jobs, good pay, decent housing and high-quality education. While there is some recognition of this in today’s announcements, insufficient funding means that, as it stands, the Levelling Up agenda is unlikely to lead to significant improvements in any of these areas.”

Similarly Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “The targets are largely in the right areas, but many look extremely ambitious – that is to say highly unlikely to be met, even with the best policies and much resource.

“There is little detail on how most of them will be met, and less detail on available funding. There is something for everyone, and hence little sense of prioritisation: ambition and resource will be spread very thin.”

Sarah Longlands, chief executive of Centre for Local Economic Strategies in Manchester, felt the strategies lacked coherence.

She said: “The Levelling Up white paper doesn’t offer a coherent roadmap for economic change but a scattering of special projects which together will do little to alleviate the challenges faced by those who have not only been left behind but kept behind for decades.”

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said: “The structural reforms to local government and the specific policy measures announced feel piecemeal and, in the main, familiar.”

Comments 2

  1. To do all this will require lots of money. The article says there is not much indication of where the money will come from. Because the Government dare not take on the mega rich with their own space programs and smart tax lawyers the burden will fall on the rest of us. The only money the Government has is what they can squeeze out of us in taxes (after all would you lend them money given their record?).
    The increasing numbers of working poor who have no assets and must claim benefits just to get by can’t cough up the money, they are the ones that need to be levelled up after all. Given a finite money supply to strike a balance as the poor go up somebody else will have to come down. You don’t have to be a genius to work out who that will be. It will be those in the middle (who the poor consider rich because they have a better than average paid job a house and a car and go abroad for holidays) who will get dragged down.
    Personally, I think this country may have passed some sort of point of no return and 2030 will be bleaker than 2022.

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