Levelling up was reported to be one of Boris Johnson’s most-used terms during the 2019 election campaign1. The Conservative Party said in its manifesto that it would be “levelling up every part of the UK” and proposed five initiatives: investing in towns, cities, and rural and coastal areas; giving those areas more control of how investment is made; levelling up skills using apprenticeships and a £3bn National Skills Fund; making life much easier for farming and fishing industries; and creating up to 10 freeports to help deprived communities. A “Levelling Up Taskforce” was launched in September 20202 comprising 40 Conservative MPs representing seats all around the country, to “champion ideas to boost Britain’s lagging areas and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make the best of their talents, no matter where they are from”.
City regions and local government, too, want to work with central government to support its levelling up agenda. For example, in March 2021 Greater Manchester announced “Innovation Greater Manchester”3 to provide a “blueprint for collaboration with government to create £7bn economic benefit, 100,000 jobs, boost R&D investment and level up the North”. In November 2020, Manchester City Council published “Powering Recovery”4, a plan setting out “how Manchester will emerge reinvigorated from the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic – and other challenges such as the uncertainties of Brexit”, and stating that the: “message to businesses, investors, developers and the Government is clear – Manchester is ready and able to play a leading role in levelling up the country’s economy, and we all need to play our part to ensure this happens”.
These initiatives, blueprints and plans are to be welcomed, but these ‘top-down levelling up’ initiatives will take time to set up, to gain traction and to take effect, and even then still might not reach those who feel they are the most ‘left behind’.
So, maybe these ‘top-down levelling up’ initiatives will need to be complemented with ‘bottom-up levelling up’ initiatives, such as those described in Levelling Up – Some Solutions.
1. Budget 2021: What is levelling up and how is it going? – BBC News
2. Levelling Up News: 18 September – Levelling Up (substack.com)
3. Innovation Greater Manchester provides blueprint for boosting R&D investment and levelling up North – Greater Manchester Combined Authority (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk)
4. Powering Recovery: Manchester’s Recovery and Investment Plan | Powering Recovery: Manchester’s Recovery and Investment Plan | Manchester City Council