Centre for Cities - a think tank improving the economies of cities and towns - gives its verdict on four Levelling Up priorities


1.... Empowering local leaders and communities

WE would advocate for a “New Deal for Local Government” which entails a redrawing of boundaries to 69 mayor-led authorities responsible for economic growth; the reform of all two-tier systems to unitary structures; directly-elected leadership for every local area with four-year terms; and everywhere with the same devolved powers as London.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget £8.7 billion commitment to devolved administrations is a good start, but many policy levers under the banner of levelling up would be devolved matters, so significant power and resources should be devolved away from Whitehall.

2..... Growing the private sector and boosting living standards

IN the short term, the challenge across the UK is to help those who lost jobs during the pandemic make their way back into the labour market.

In the long term, the focus should be on the types of jobs being created, i.e. less economically prosperous places need to attract more knowledge-intensive businesses.

This can only happen through investment in skills, improving office / co-working provision in city centres and transport infrastructure, R&D spending and devolution.

Highly-skilled exporting work in the private sector outside the Greater South East should be increased, and this should focus on large cities where these jobs can flourish whilst bearing in mind that some places will always possess a competitive advantage in low-cost production.

3..... Spreading opportunity and improving public services

AS part of the levelling up agenda, increasing opportunity and prosperity has been identified as a key aim, and skills are the best indicator for employment outcomes.

A more qualified workforce will attract businesses that provide high-skilled job opportunities and boost the economy, levelling up underperforming cities.

Fairer funding for local government should focus on reforming the way social care is funded, giving local authorities greater freedom in how they raise funding, setting multiyear budgets, and allowing sales fees and charged raised in one services area to be spent on any service area.

Read more: All our Level Up stories so far

4..... Restoring local pride

Successful high streets are an outcome, not a driver, of successful city centre economies.

The key to improving cities’ amenities is rooted in boosting consumer spending power. To level up, policy must focus on improving the skills provision of city residents and making city centres more attractive places for knowledge-based businesses, such as through providing quality facilities and office space.

Levelling up should focus on skills and improving the standards of living.

This would entail a large increase in school / FE spending and a Singapore-style voucher scheme, the end of local government austerity, greater devolution and the franchising of bus services across the country.


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