Levelling up: What’s it all about?

“What is likely to be missing is one simple course of action that might convince people that levelling up is worth their interest: finally giving places all the power and money they have needed for years, and then getting out of the way.”

“The story of the south west is one of complex inequality, that is not easily reflected in traditional interregional figures, particularly around the coast. If the Government is to truly make a difference and level up the country as a whole, the south west cannot be ignored.”

.

Some have suggested that the new Dept for Levelling Up sounds rather pythonesque:

Monty Python Royal Society For Putting Things On Top of Other Things – YouTube

With further appreciations of the absurd noted by the i newspaper:Amidst the cabinet reshuffle in recent days, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been rebranded as “Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities”, and of course, you can count on Twitter to make it into an instant meme.

The government’s new ‘Department for Levelling Up’ is being absolutely roasted | indy100

Yes, it really has been rebranded:

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will become the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as the government delivers on its central mission to level up every part of the UK.

Ambitious plans to drive levelling up agenda – GOV.UK

Johan Harris gives us ‘sovietesque’:

Whatever their good intentions, one criticism of these fragmented plans is easy: many of them combine comparatively piffling sums of money with an almost Soviet-esque level of complexity. Another focus of negativity is the sense of pork-barrel politics (witness the farce of the affluent corner of Yorkshire represented by Rishi Sunak being put in the levelling-up fund’s top tier, while post-industrial Barnsley received much stingier treatment). This point extends to an overlooked tension in the idea that levelling up is something for “the whole country”. Among the points it makes about the local austerity still being handed down from Whitehall and the thin spread of levelling-up money, a recent exhaustive report issued on behalf of 47 English councils – run by both main parties – makes one key argument plain: “You cannot level up everywhere in the UK. You must prioritise.”

Woven through all these distributional tensions are questions about power and where it lies. People who run cities, counties and boroughs wonder why so much help has to come from centrally held pots of money that they must endlessly compete for (“It’s all bids – there’s nothing where you control your own destiny,” one local Labour politician told me last week). Some bemoan the fact that England’s new elected mayors still have such limited powers and small budgets. These points lead in turn to a question that has not surfaced in mainstream politics, but soon should: what might a viable, authentic, enduring kind of levelling up look like?

…Back in Westminster, a levelling-up “taskforce” is to be set up, and a belated white paper is reportedly imminent. There have been warm words from the people putting it together about devolution, hi-tech and high-wage jobs, “physical regeneration” and “pride in place”. What is likely to be missing is one simple course of action that might convince people that levelling up is worth their interest: finally giving places all the power and money they have needed for years, and then getting out of the way.

Want to ‘level up’ the UK? Just give places the power and money they need | John Harris | The Guardian

To level up the political commentary, here is North Devon MP Selaine Saxby:

“Levelling Up” must benefit the whole country. While plenty has been written discussing levelling up the North, far less attention has been given to what is levelling up the South and in particular the south west. This is perhaps because, as a whole, the south west is perfectly average in most indicators of success that levelling up may target compared to the rest of the UK. However, dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that there is vast intra-regional inequality in the south west on a level barely seen elsewhere within the country.

Broad brush regional comparisons using the traditional indicators of success are by themselves unhelpful when discussing the unique position of the south west, and to understand what is really going on we must dig beneath the surface. Our unemployment is low in the south west, but this headline statistic hides the prevalence of part time work (some 27.1% of people) and the relative low pay of those at the bottom of the income spectrum, particularly the level of those on minimum wage. Indeed, the bottom 60% of part-time workers in the income distribution in the south west earn less than correspondingly ranked part-time workers in every other region. This is despite the fact that workers here consistently work longer hours than in the south east, for example.

This picture may be somewhat unfamiliar to those in the more urban conurbations in the south west, but to those of us in North Devon or other rural and coastal areas, often long distances from any city or motorway, these are very real concerns. With few jobs available within commuting distance, and connectivity in many places too poor to even consider a job requiring an average speed internet connection, people will continue moving away and our skills gap will widen further.

The story of the south west is one of complex inequality, that is not easily reflected in traditional interregional figures, particularly around the coast. If the Government is to truly make a difference and level up the country as a whole, the south west cannot be ignored, and indeed deserves a special focus in its own right given the unique situation in which it finds itself.”

“Levelling Up” must benefit the whole country – Rural Services Network

Rural areas are indeed concerned:

Levelling Up Rural: stimulating lasting recovery and revitalisation – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Levelling up rural: how to fairly allocate government funding – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Meanwhile, the government is being challenged in court over how it has been allocating its resources:

Legal challenge to £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund highlights Rishi Sunak’s Richmondshire being chosen over Barnsley | Yorkshire Post

Boris Johnson facing corruption legal battle over £4.8bn ‘levelling-up fund’ that sent cash to Tory areas | The Independent

But how should resources be channelled? 

Levelling up the low wage economy – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Levelling up: The seaside town debating what change is needed – BBC News

   
© Vision Group for Sidmouth 2005-2021