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Written on 11 Jan 2021

Bennett Institute launches new series on levelling up

The Bennett Institute for Public Policy is publishing a new series of blogs on the government’s levelling up agenda; the latest in a long line of policy programmes to address the unequal economic performance of the regions of the United Kingdom.

The series will help to stimulate the policy debate around levelling up by exploring key areas such as the role of infrastructure, the importance of data and measurement, the relationship between trust, social capital and levelling up, and the impact of a transition to a net zero carbon economy on left-behind places. It will also look outside of the UK for examples of how other countries have managed regional inequalities.

Says Owen Garling, Knowledge Transfer Facilitator at the Bennett Institute, “This blog series aims to start a number of conversations around how levelling up can move from a manifesto pledge to policy programmes that have a positive impact on people’s lives.

“Levelling up remains vaguely defined and there are many questions needing to be answered. By its very nature, levelling up requires subjective comparisons to be made between different places. What is it that makes one place ‘left behind’ and in need of levelling up, and what makes another place successful?

“This opens up a question of what is measured and what ought to be measured. For example, regional devolution in England has been built on a framework of primarily economic measures. But do these give a true picture of places and lead to the most appropriate types of policy intervention?"

The recent Comprehensive Spending Review gave some clues to the government’s approach to levelling up and how it will be delivered. This included a £4 billion Fund for England to “invest in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities”; a new National Infrastructure Strategy based around “economic recovery, levelling up and unleashing the potential of the Union, and meeting the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050; and a refreshed Green Book “to ensure that project appraisals properly analyse how proposals deliver the government’s key priorities, including levelling up, and how they will impact different places.”

The levelling up blog series draws on the latest thinking from across the Bennett Institute’s three research themes – place, progress and productivity – and brings together contributions from the wider academic and policymaking communities to explore and give greater depth to an understanding of some of the most important policy issues that will have a bearing upon the achievement of this ambitious, and ill defined, goal.

Read the first blog and more about the Levelling Up series.