Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
11 November 2020updated 27 Jul 2021 5:53am

Spotlight Leader: A slogan that needs substance

 What does the government’s “levelling up” agenda really mean?

By Spotlight

At the end of October, more than 50 Conservative MPs, led by the former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry, delivered a stinging critique of Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda. The letter from the newly formed Northern Research Group, called for a roadmap out of lockdown and expressed concern “that the cost of Covid” could mean “northern constituencies like ours will be left behind”.

It was a far cry from the 2019 general election, when the Conservatives swept to a surprisingly resounding victory, taking seats Labour had held for decades. Of the 41 MPs named in the letter, many were from former “Red Wall” seats.

Read more: “The UK is an unequal nation”: Local leaders on the “levelling up” agenda

Stark divisions between Westminster and “local leaders” have become a defining feature of the pandemic. While the government talks about the need to deal with coronavirus and protect the economy, the likes of Greater Manchester’s metro mayor, Andy Burnham, have been vocal about the reality of the challenge for their local areas, and what support they need from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak.  

The regions need investment in transport infrastructure, skills, and education to address disparities – the UK is one of the most regionally imbalanced economies in the industrialised world. But local leaders also want the “government to back us and give us the tools we need to deliver,” as Julia Goldsworthy, director of economy and strategy for West Midlands Combined Authority, says in our leaders’ symposium.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Read more: How trees can help rebalance the economy

Content from our partners
Building the business case for growth
“On supporting farmers, McDonald’s sets a high standard”
City of London Corporation brings stakeholders together to drive climate action

But the question remains: what does levelling up actually mean? As Bridget Phillipson, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury points out (see pages 8-9), there is an opportunity now to add substance to the concept.

Given the ravages of the pandemic, and the parallel catastrophe of the climate crisis, levelling up must incorporate the UK’s transformation into a sustainable, clean energy economy. And, as the final report from Lord Kerslake’s UK2070 Commission made clear, it must truly empower local leaders to grow their local economies. As Goldsworthy says: “We can’t afford to wait.”

This article originally appeared in the Spotlight report on regional development. Click here for the full edition.

Topics in this article :