On coming to power a year ago, the stated intent of the Conservative Party was to ‘level up’ every part of the country: from our “great towns and cities” to our “rural and coastal areas”. As such, levelling up is the latest in a long line of approaches put forward by successive governments to address the unequal economic performance of the regions of the United Kingdom.
However, levelling up as a policy goal remains elusive. At the moment it is only vaguely defined, and so there remains a risk that it means different things to different people. The question remains: how can levelling up both deliver the government’s manifesto promises, whilst also supporting those hardest hit places?
Our recent series of papers – An Industrial Strategy for Tomorrow – argued that, “[for] the new government in the UK, an industrial strategy represents one of the key institutional vehicles for achieving its main policy goals.”
As Industrial Strategies morph into COVID recovery plans, we too are redirecting our attention to the closely related challenges associated with ‘levelling up’. This series will draw on the latest thinking from across the Bennett Institute’s three research themes – place, progress and productivity – as well as bringing together contributions from the wider academic and policymaking communities to explore and give greater depth to our understanding of some of the most important policy issues that will have a bearing upon the achievement of this ambitious, and ill defined, goal.
Our submissions to the BEIS Post-pandemic Economic Growth inquiry and the PACAC Evolution of devolution inquiry provide a synthesis of how our existing research is already contributing to this agenda.
Areas that we are exploring in this series include:
- the role of infrastructure
- the importance of data and measurement
- the relationship between trust, social capital and levelling up
- the impact of a transition to a net zero carbon economy on left-behind places.
We also look outside of the UK for examples of how other countries have managed regional inequalities.
Our intention is that this series helps to stimulate the policy debate around levelling up by exploring these areas in depth. We also hope that these pieces will start a number of ongoing conversations around how levelling up can move from a manifesto pledge to policy decisions that have a positive impact on people’s lives.