The long awaited white paper on levelling up has been published, with the aim of reducing inequalities across societies in Britain by 2030. The proposal has been described as a complete ‘system change’ by the government. The paper outlines 12 legally binding mission statements setting out how the ambitious strategy is going to be achieved. The statements cover a broad range of topics with the commitment to improve transport, infrastructure, the built environment, housing, connectivity, education, crime and health across Britain.

Most notably the white paper recognises the need for devolution of power and local led leadership to embed the outlined changes and maximise the impact of allocated funding. Initially, the government will invite 9 areas across Britain to agree new county deals, with the aim of every part of England having ‘London-style’ devolution powers by 2030. The first areas invited to agree on deals are Cornwall, Derbyshire & Derby, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, Durham, Hull & East Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire & Nottingham, and Suffolk. As well as empowering local leaders, the white paper aims to restore local pride, improve local services and boost pay and productivity.

Overview of funds mentioned within the white paper:

– £44 million will be unlocked from the Dormant Assets Scheme to support charities, social enterprises, and vulnerable individuals.
– A yearly £50 million diverted from the Safer Streets Fund to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
– £93 million will be invested to increase the amount of unpaid work that offenders carry out.
– £100 Million for 3 Innovation Accelerators, aimed to make Greater Manchester, West Midlands, and Glasgow-City Region centres of innovation.
– £230 Million for grassroots football.
– £1.5 billion Levelling Up Home Building Fund.
– £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be redistributed and decentralised to local leaders.

Much of the debate around the levelling up agenda, is whether the pledges go further enough to significantly reduce inequalities throughout the country and activate the investment needed. The white paper has come under criticism for recycling funds previously announced, in particular the £1.5 billion Home Building Fund which comes directly from the £1.8 billion pledged for regeneration of brownfield sites stated in the autumn budget. Today’s announcement pledges little in the way of new funding, it is more about ‘unlocking’, ‘diverting’ and efficiently utilising existing funds. The lack of new funding has left many underwhelmed by Whitehall’s commitment to Levelling Up. However, the inclusion of the mission statements does hold the government to account and ensures that levelling up will be taken seriously and measured against specific targets moving forward. Whether the plan will ‘transform the UK’ as stated remains to be seen.

In a recent Leadership Group meeting for the TIPS programme, the levelling up agenda was mentioned as a key area of focus under the People & Place priority (TIPS 1.0). The Levelling Up agenda looks set to have a big impact on the public sector, therefore over the coming 12 months, the TIPS programme will critically assess and debate topics and issues covered within the Levelling Up agenda.