Aerial view of a housing estate in Harrogate

Public sector leaders share their views on levelling up requirements

Ahead of the release of the long-awaited Levelling Up whitepaper from the Government, the Institute of Economic Development (IED) has compiled a report outlining the views of a number of members from across the public sector.

For those members, there were a number of key considerations which needed to be taken in the upcoming whitepaper, particularly reflecting the levelling up agenda’s importance to local communities, to long-deprived cities and towns, coastal settlements, and the growing opportunities around social capital.

Contributors to the report included:

  • Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director, Institute of Economic Development David Fletcher, Director of City Development and Growth at Derby City Council
  • Daniel Harper, Executive Officer – Economy and Transport, Harrogate Borough Council
  • Lydia Rusling, Assistant Director for Economic Growth, South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership
  • Lorna Young, Marketing and Rural Economic Development Consultant
  • Joanne Leek, Economic Development Manager, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

In those contributions, often taking a personal view on the levelling up agenda based on their own experiences in local government, there were a number of common themes which were seen throughout.

These included the importance of not just prioritising and targeting people and communities through levelling up and economic development, but also ensuring to directly involve them in the narrative.

The report called for community confidence, aspiration, skills and opportunity to be at the centre of what was considered.

An overhaul of the previous ‘trickle-down economics’ model was also called for, with the need for a levelling up agenda being seen as evidence to its failings. Some of these shortcomings, the contributors explain, were because the model was never designed to address inequalities, with the levelling up agenda instead having sought to address multiple issues – covered by several different government departments and organisations – which has allowed for greater progress to be made.

This increased cross-initiative working has been heralded by those in the IED’s report, with more collaborative endeavours, along the same vein, sought for the future too.

For this cross-working to be a success though, they warn that it must be carried out predominantly at a local level, where it is easier to overcome the bureaucracy and inherent organisational divides.

It also recommended seeing devolution shift to better align with local needs and local governance, taking on economic development as a statutory function. This would then ensure the delivery of economic development initiatives took place against a backdrop of greater certainty, with a strong long-term focus.

It would prevent, the IED explained, local actors being responsible for administering the same Westminster funds, under the same rules as before, and as such seeing the outcomes remain largely unchanged.

Finally, crucially, the contributors reiterated that issues and shortcomings with the previous ‘trickle-down’ system weren’t to be seen as a failure. Rather, those failings were able to then educate policy-making for the future and be used as a mechanism for refinement, but only if they were sufficiently recognised by the public sector.

IED Executive Director, Nigel Wilcock, said: “It is our intention that [this report] will stimulate further debate and thinking.

“We have tended to address themes from a slightly more spatial perspective than is expected in the White Paper, and of course once that White Paper has been published and considered, the IED will be responding more formally to the consultation.”

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