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New report shows more funding is needed to make levelling up work

Graeme Atherton

With the Levelling Up White Paper expected by the end of this month, a new report launched today (14 Jan) by the Centre for Inequality and Levelling Up (@_CELUP) at the University of West London argues that if all deprived areas are to be supported to level up, then more money will be needed.

The report ‘Levelling Up Funding: The Story so far’ brings together analysis of the government’s Levelling Up Fund and UK Community Renewal Funds.

It shows that:

  • 68% (43) of the English local authority areas that received levelling up Funding, the money they received does not make up for the loss of their core funding due to a reduction in their SFA allocation from 2016-17 to 2020-21;
  • 5 of the 10 most deprived areas of the country, received no levelling up funding;
    1. Blackpool,
    2. Knowsley,
    3. Barking & Dagenham,
    4. Hackney and
    5. Sandwell
  • The Levelling Up Fund was disproportionately awarded to urban areas with only 13% of funds being awarded to predominantly rural areas;
  • The Levelling Up Fund was awarded to more deprived areas than the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF). 66% of the Levelling Up Fund awarded to English local authorities was awarded to areas ranked in the 30% most deprived in England compared to only 29% of the UKCRF awarded to English local authority districts or upper-tier local authorities;
  • 61 of the 100 most deprived areas in England did not receive Levelling Up Funding;
  • Levelling Up Fund allocations were concentrated in the North West, North East and West Midlands of England, UKCRF were concentrated in Wales, the South West and East of England.

This analysis highlights that the allocations associated with the Levelling Up Fund do not make up for a decade of cuts in central government grants that have decreased the spending power of local governments.

For many of the English local authority areas that received resources from the Levelling Up Fund, their allocation was less than their cumulative loss of central government funding since 2016-17.

In addition, the report shows that the majority of the most deprived areas in England did not receive any Levelling Up Funding in the first round of allocations.

The report also shows that Levelling Up Fund allocations so far, have focused on more deprived areas and ex-industrial regions than the allocations from the UKCRF.

It is essential that if the government’s work on levelling up is to have the maximum impact that the forthcoming white paper contains a commitment to more investment that reaches in particular the areas in the country in the most need.

The Head of the Centre for Inequality and Levelling Up, Professor Graeme Atherton

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