Achieving Levelling-Up: The Structures and Processes Needed

By Charles Seaford (Demos) and Ben Glover (Demos), Professor Simon Collinson, Dr Charlotte Hoole, Dr Anastasios Kitsos and Dr Diana Gutierrez Posada (University of Birmingham), Dr Helen Tilley and Dr Ananya Mukherjee (University of Cardiff), Professor Nigel Gilbert and Dr Jack Newman (University of Surrey) and Professor Nigel Driffield (Warwick)

‘Levelling-up’ is one of this Government’s flagship ambitions. This report, Achieving Levelling-Up, focuses on the structures and processes needed to achieve it, finding that there is zero chance of achieving it without significant changes to the current system at a national and local level.

The report, conducted as part of the LIPSIT (Local Institutions, Productivity, Sustainability and Inclusivity Trade-offs) project by Demos and the Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Surrey and Warwick, identifies a number of problems with the current system for managing local economic policy, and suggests a new framework in which levelling-up should be possible.

The research shows that there are a number of barriers to tackling regional inequality which urgently need to be tackled, including wasteful processes in local and national institutions, a lack of long-term strategy due to fragmented funding from central government, and an insufficient level of accountability of those who are currently responsible for delivering growth, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Combined Authorities (CAs).

In order to address these issues, the report recommends eight steps for central government to take, which would provide a more successful framework to implement the Government’s flagship levelling-up agenda.

The report concludes that levelling-up will be difficult but possible. Achieving it will require strong local institutions and strong leadership from central government.

Commenting on the findings, Charles Seaford, Senior Fellow at Demos and co-author of the report, said:

“The intention to level-up was at the heart of the Government’s policy agenda when they won the General Election in 2019. And we’ve been hearing even more about regional inequality since the regional responses to Covid-19 came into force recently. But the answer to the question of levelling-up is not a simple one. The answer is not simply more funding: it requires a shake-up to the current system, new structures to facilitate joint objective setting, more accountability, and changes to the way success is measured.

“Without a combination of these improvements, there is no clear path ahead for levelling-up. This has been a long-standing issue through successive governments, and we hope that central government will finally take leadership on this agenda, and make the true change which has been highly anticipated for too long.”

Read the full report here.

We launched our report with a panel event featuring Lord O’Neill, Professor Donna Hall and Mayor Jamie Driscoll. You can watch the event below