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Government’s levelling up agenda risks becoming an ‘everything and nothing policy’, say Business Committee

22 July 2021

A lack of clarity on what the Government means by ‘levelling up’ and how it translates into coherent and specific initiatives risks relegating the Government’s flagship agenda to an ‘everything and nothing policy’, says the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee in a report published today.

The report expresses disappointment at how little detail has been put forward to explain what the Government sees ‘levelling up’ to mean and how it will be delivered.

The report states that a lack of definition on how Government is going to achieve levelling up, an absence of detail on how success will be measured, and confusion over who is leading on delivery raises concerns that the levelling-up agenda will fail to deliver meaningful change for people across the country.

The report makes a series of recommendations to press the Government to establish clear levelling up priorities and to develop a set of metrics and regular reporting on progress. Recognising inequality in the capacity of local areas to bid for government funds, the report recommends the Government put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that it is not only the most well-resourced authorities who are successful in securing funding.

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:

“Last week, the Prime Minister flunked his opportunity to explain what levelling up is and instead revealed that the Government has failed miserably in translating a political soundbite into a deliverable programme of Government.

Previous Governments, of all political stripes, have sought to tackle the regional inequalities which exist in our country. For levelling up to be more than a political soundbite, it’s crucial the Government’s White Paper sets out what levelling up is, what the policy priorities are, and how Whitehall will work with local and regional government to deliver meaningful change for people and communities across the country.

Levelling up was a major part of the Governments offer to the British people at the last election, but it appears every possible funding stream from government – be it about bus stops or football pitches is labelled as for levelling up. If levelling up is going to mean something above and beyond the normal day-to-day work of government, the Prime Minister needs to set out how he’s going to pay for it.

Regional and local devolution in England is incoherent and inconsistent. If we are going to create a more equal economy for people across the country, the Government must explain how local councils, mayors, powerhouses, local enterprise partnerships and other organisations will be given the powers and capacity to deliver; and, crucially, what will happen in parts of the country that don’t have powerhouses or mayors.”

Clear direction needed from No10 on which Department will be responsible for delivering which levelling up outcomes

The Committee’s report calls for clear direction from No10 on which Department will be responsible for delivering which levelling up outcomes and how. The report recommends the Government establish the functioning of a Cabinet Committee on ‘levelling up’ and that it collaborates with devolved, regional, and local leaders.

The Committee’s report also calls on the Government to work with the Office for National Statistics, the Cities and Local Growth Unit (which reports jointly to DBEIS and MHCLG) and the National Audit Office to agree a set of metrics for the routine reporting of progress in delivering ‘levelling up’ priorities.

Further information

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