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Refocus ‘levelling up’ strategy and funds, peers tell government

20 May 2021

The Public Services Committee has sent its position paper on ‘Levelling up’ and public services to Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP.

The Committee has made several recommendations ahead of the forthcoming Government White Paper on the ‘Levelling up’ strategy.

Committee findings

The Committee warned that ‘left behind’ places will be “short-changed” and inequality will grow if money for the NHS, schools and councils is not protected and ‘levelling up’ plans are not better targeted.

It called for Ministers to use the promised ‘levelling up’ White Paper to refocus their strategy to improve health, employment and skills and better prepare children for school if it wants more jobs, productivity and pay in deprived communities.

During the inquiry, witnesses accused ministers of favouring prosperous rural areas with funds ahead of deprived communities.  

“Without full transparency and political accountability local areas will continue to question why they have missed out on ‘levelling up’ funding while others have benefited.”

The Committee found that the Government’s strategy “does not recognise high levels of deprivation in many parts of the country including parts of London.”  

The Committee also warns that if ‘levelling up’ investment neglects social infrastructure – such as community centres and childcare – and public services it will not help the most deprived areas.

The Committee called on the Government to work with local service providers and users to set targets to improve, for example, life expectancy, employment, literacy and numeracy of children starting school and the number of entrants to higher education.

Chair's comments

Baroness Armstrong, committee chair, said:

“Not only places but the people who live in them should be at the heart of ‘levelling up’. Social infrastructure and support provided by public services is at least as critical to communities as investment in roads and bridges.

“Lack of funding for preventative health services, vocational education and for better literacy and numeracy among disadvantaged children has undermined the resilience of our poorest communities and further entrenched inequality. 

“Successfully ‘levelling up’ will require a more holistic approach. A White Paper – which should be published urgently - is welcome but it’s unclear exactly what the government wants to level up, how much its strategy will cost, how long it will take and how it plans to achieve its goals.

“The strategy will require a major change of direction if it is to achieve its admirable ambition for people in ‘left-behind’ areas to have the same opportunities as elsewhere in the country.”

Further information