Stark regional inequalities have long blighted the UK and successive governments have tried to tackle them. But no government had made the issue a flagship policy until 2019. The Levelling Up White Paper in February 2022 added detail but, while widely regarded as packed with great analysis, it was short on specific proposals.
Now, with a change of leader in Number 10, ICAEW explores not only where the policy goes from here, but, far more crucially, what can be done rebalance the national economy. Our members play a vital role in UK business and we know that a rebalanced economy will ultimately create better lives for all.
The government has outlined science and manufacturing as sectors vital for regional growth – and is hoping to improve the connection between business and the UK’s leading network of universities.
The UK has long struggled with poor productivity compared to similar developed countries. Not only is the national picture worrying, but there are wide regional disparities as well.
London is the UK’s exemplar of how investment in transport can expedite business and support growth. But it is the exception, not the rule, and still includes late, over-budget projects that show how difficult it is to get right.
There is clear agreement that regional rebalancing won’t work if managed from Westminster. The UK’s nations and regions will need more decision-making responsibility, without creating an overly complex structure.
Making Levelling Up work will require the collection and sharing of robust data. Are the government’s plans enough?
Levelling Up is ambitious and will require strong oversight but, as a programme aimed at empowering the UK’s regions, its governance must also reflect the communities it serves.
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