Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire, has warned that the government’s approach to the levelling up project is failing and, ultimately, costing the people of the region.
Two months into his role as Mayor of South Yorkshire, Coppard criticised the way that levelling up has become competitive, rather than being a collaboration between the council’s that make up the country. Coppard said:
“Rather than a sensible, grown up, conversation about the needs of our community, we are forced into competing with other, equally deserving parts of our country for pots of money that are too small to begin with. You can’t level up through competition.
“The contrast between the Government’s levelling up rhetoric and the reality across our communities is stark. This Tory government are seemingly intent on doing little more than gaslighting us.”
One of the areas that Coppard believed that there was evidence of the levelling up agenda, and ultimately the way that it is being carried out, failing was through the transport crisis that the north of England is currently going through. Rail disruption across the north, as well as cuts to South Yorkshire’s bus network and an uncertain future ahead for Doncaster Sheffield Airport mean that transport across the region is struggling to keep up with the demand.
Coppard is also an advocate for more devolved powers for the region, something which their neighbours in North Yorkshire will receive next year and was promised in the government’s Levelling Up White Paper. Coppard said:
“It’s clear no one in South Yorkshire simply wants a handout from Government. We want nothing less than to stand on our own two feet…
“…We are more exposed than most to the downsides of the UK’s current economic model, and the success of our region relies more than I would like on choices made in London.”
Whilst the Government’s Levelling Up Fund is competitive, forcing councils to bid against each other for a share of the funding each round, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is not competitive. All councils have to do is provide the government with their plans for how they will spend the money allocated and how this will benefit the wider community. Is there a case for making the Levelling Up Fund non-competitive to ensure that the regions that really need the funding, get it?
On 17 November we’re joined by public sector leaders and innovators to explore the key challenges that levelling up brings. You can gain insight into what public sector leaders need to navigate the plan while prioritising communities and how to shift regional inequalities to support people and places. Register here