As the government moves towards the second phase of funding for levelling up projects across the country, research has shown that more needs to be done to ensure that the strategy is successful in rural areas.
In a report published recently by the Rural Services Network (RSN), it was discovered that rural England would requires a greater emphasis on levelling up than anywhere else in the country, if it was to be thought of as its own region.
One main reason why this is an issue is with the current metrics of the government’s plan seeking to “close the gap” between regions in England, rather than the inequalities within the regions themselves, largely leaving rural areas at risk of being left behind. As per the report from the RSN, when comparing the main metrics in which rural performance is measured against the other nine regions of England, the “rural region” has further to level up than anywhere else, on average.
In response to the report, a spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said:
“Rural areas are at the heart of our levelling up agenda. Our white paper is a plan for everyone, including rural communities, who rightly expect and deserve access to better services, quicker transport, and quality education.
We’ve designed our funds to ensure we reach places most in need and we continue to keep them under review as we develop each levelling up mission.”
With issues being faced include limited local work opportunities, lower earnings, poor transport, and weak connectivity, the metrics need to take local factors into consideration. An example is the fact that most rural areas do have higher levels of employment, however lower pay and often more seasonal work, places restrictions on job security and opportunity.
Whilst many levelling up projects in rural areas around the country have been reported across both phases of the funding, the report makes it clear that many rural communities are at risk of being left behind, widening the gap between those who have been assisted by levelling up funding, and those who have not.