Central Government policies have undermined the ‘levelling up’ agenda and left the UK more regionally divided than ever, a new study says.
The progressive think tank, IPPR North, has warned that the funding set aside for ending regional inequality ‘pales in comparison’ to what was lost through austerity measures brought in by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government of 2010.
The 2021 allocations of the Levelling Up Fund is an investment of just £32 per person in the North. This compares to a £413 per person drop in the North, and a £388 drop across England, in annual council service spending over the last decade.
The think tank also warned that the country is becoming more centralised, with public spending concentrated in central Government. Four years ago, 95 pence in every £1 paid in tax was taken by Whitehall. This has now increased to 96p.
Regional divides are growing across a range of measures, according to IPPR North. One example provided by the researchers to illustrate this deepening divide is that for every job created in the North, just under three were created in London and the 'Greater South East’.
‘Two years on from the promise to level up the country, government's rhetoric has reached fever pitch, but in reality they have once again over-promised and under delivered on rebalancing our economy,’ said the interim director of IPPR North, Arianna Giovannini.
‘To succeed in levelling up, enabling people everywhere to live a good life it will be necessary to build an economy hardwired for widespread prosperity, that powers the net zero transition, and provides everyone with access to high quality lifelong education.
‘Broadening and deepening devolution, and building collaborative relationships between and across all levels of government are essential components of the levelling up jigsaw. But reorganising local government by the back door, false dawns, and further centralising power and funding would be a huge mistake and level down the country.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities said that this analysis was ‘misleading’ because it only focuses on one part of the Government’s investment in levelling up.
‘In addition to the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, we’re providing record investment in infrastructure worth over £96bn, £12bn in affordable housing and a £2.6bn Shared Prosperity Fund to help rebalance opportunity across the UK,’ they said.
‘The Government will publish a White Paper that will drive forward this central mission in due course.’
For more on the levelling up white paper visit The MJ (£).