In 2019, the Government was elected on a pledge to address regional inequality and to level up the country. However, after two years of leadership, ‘levelling up’ Britain has become an elusive goal due to the many barriers instigated by the coronavirus health crisis.
Thankfully, the Conservatives have finally unveiled their long-promised intentions to narrow the gap between affluent and poor areas of the country. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove introduced the policy, which will run into 2030 and aims to enhance such services as education, broadband and transportation.
In this week’s blog, we’re exploring the commitments made by the The Levelling Up White Paper, and how it will affect the country’s town and city centres.
The plan is centred around 12 “national missions” designed to increase the economic opportunities available across all regions by “calling time on the postcode lottery”. This is what it sets out:
- Pay, employment and productivity will increase in every part of the UK.
- All public transportation in the UK will be brought “much closer to London’s standards.”
- Primary school children reaching expected standards in reading, writing and maths will increase “significantly”.
- The numbers completing high-quality skills training across the UK will rise “significantly”.
- The gap in healthy life expectancy between the UK areas where it is highest and lowest will narrow.
- Perceived wellbeing in all parts of the UK will improve.
- “People’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community” will rise across the UK.
- First-time home buyers in all UK areas will increase.
- Homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime, focused on worst-affected areas, will fall.
- A devolution deal for “every part of England that wants one” will be instated.
Transforming town & city centres
An innovative new regeneration initiative will breathe new life into disadvantaged areas, transforming towns and cities across the country. Derelict urban locations in 20 towns and cities will be targeted for redevelopment, with Sheffield and Wolverhampton being the first to be chosen.
The government are providing local leaders in Wolverhampton with the tools they need to catalyse the revitalisation of the city and the larger Wolverhampton-Walsall corridor. This will expand on the government’s £20 million investment in the Levelling Up Fund, as well as the new DLUHC headquarters in the city centre.
The government’s £37 million Levelling Up Fund will be used to fund fresh redevelopment initiatives in Sheffield. A key change is the upcoming Integrated Rail Plan electrification and upgrades, which will cut journey times between Sheffield and London to just 87 minutes.
Around £1.5bn cash will be released from April from the £1.8bn fund for brownfield regeneration promised by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the last Autumn spending review. The Government will also reveal details this week of a £1.5bn Levelling Up Home Building Fund, first announced in 2020. This will provide loans to small and medium-sized builders and developers to deliver 42,000 homes, most going outside London and the South East.
The regeneration programme will be spearheaded by the government’s housing delivery agency Homes England, which will be refocused and tasked to support the Levelling Up agenda. It will use its extensive powers and expertise to help local leaders deliver the regeneration of large areas of towns and cities, as they adapt to economic trends like the rise of online shopping.
“This huge investment in infrastructure and regeneration will spread opportunity more evenly and help to reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”
– Michael Gove
At Targetfollow, we welcome the news of the 12 Missions to Level Up the UK – having these succinct goals will help to focus minds and offer everyone something to strive towards. We are also pleased to hear the Government restate its commitment to build more genuinely affordable social housing. SME house-builders will benefit from increased finance, which will improve the country’s housing supply.