From education to employment

Michael Gove kickstarts a “regeneration revolution” to level up Britain, but there’s more to do

Commenting on the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper today (2 Feb),

Will Tanner, Director of the thinktank Onward, said:

“Today Michael Gove fires the starting gun on a regeneration revolution. Previous governments have tried and failed to halt the real decline of jobs, pride and opportunity in many parts of the UK and close the productivity gap between richer and poorer regions. This White Paper takes a big step further – by setting out a practical route map to reverse those trends and regenerate opportunity and belonging in every part of the country. 

“In the long term, the Government is crucially changing the rules of the game – by committing the entirety of government to a list of concrete missions to level up the UK by 2030, which will be underpinned by legislation and against which departments, including the Treasury, will be held to account. Just as the Office for Budget Responsibility drives fiscal discipline, so too will this regime create a rod for the Government’s back to ensure that opportunity is spread fairly around the UK.

“But the immediate steps are welcome too. It is encouraging to see the Onward blueprint for levelling up embraced, including steps to redirect R&D, transport, housing and cultural funding out of London; real powers for both regional mayors and a greater role for parish and town councils; a manufacturing strategy to revive regional industries; and steps to re-broker underperforming schools using multi-academy trusts.”

Adam Hawksbee, Deputy Director of Onward and research lead for Levelling Up, said:

“This White Paper could be the beginning of fundamental change for Britain. From my time working with Andy Street in the West Midlands I know that local leaders want more control and more cash. This White Paper sets out clear steps to give mayors the powers they need, and rebalanced spending on housing, culture, and R&D start to back it up with resources. 

The challenge now is delivery. With an election in two years there is little time to waste. Whitehall won’t be able to do it alone, so a big test will be how the Government’s ‘missions’ galvanise action amongst businesses, charities, and community groups. At Onward, we’ll be ready with the practical ideas to support rapid progress.’

The Levelling Up White Paper explicitly draws on Onward’s back catalogue of research, including references to seven research reports:

The White Paper also announces a number of recommendations from previous Onward research reports, including:

  1. A commitment to spend a much greater share of R&D, cultural and transport funding outside London, as recommended by Onward in Levelling Up Growth Enhancing Spending(2020).
  2. A new objective to boost UKRI investment in innovation across the entire UK, as recommended by Onward in Levelling Up Innovation(2021)
  3. The abolition of the 80:20 rule, which saw 80% of affordable housing funding go to London, as recommended by Onward inLevelling Up Growth Enhancing Spending(2020).
  4. Reforms to the private rented sector to give security to tenants, including a register of landlords, abolition of no fault eviction and minimum standards for rented properties, as recommended by Onward in The Policies of Belonging(2021).
  5. The introduction of regeneration deals between central government and local areas, as recommended by Onward in Turnaround(2021)
  6. The decision that schools in underperforming areas will be re-brokered using high performing multi-academy trusts and new Education Investment Areas established, as recommended by Onward in Lost Learning(2021)
  7. A greater role for parish and town councils, including a commitment that a share of the new infrastructure levy will remain local, as recommended by Onward in Double Devo(2021)
  8. Devolution of key powers to metro and county mayors, including spatial planning and adult education funding, as recommended by Onward in The Politics of Belonging(2019).
  9. A commitment to regularly publish information on the geographic impact of spending and tax decisions, as recommended by Onward in Levelling Up the Tax System (2021).

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