Refocus 'levelling up' strategy and funds, peers tell government
Levelling up needs “a more holistic approach”
Strategy “opaque” with “unclear” management
Put people not just places at heart of ‘levelling up’
Left behind’ places will be “short-changed” and inequality will grow if money for the NHS, schools and councils is not protected and ‘levelling up’ plans are not better targeted, peers have warned.
Ministers must use the promised ‘levelling up’ White Paper to refocus their strategy to improve health, employment and skills and better prepare children for school if it wants more jobs, productivity and pay in deprived communities. according to a new report by the House of Lords Public Services Committee.
Ministers have been accused of favouring prosperous rural areas with funds ahead of deprived communities and peers believe that the government’s strategy “does not recognise high levels of deprivation in many parts of the country including parts of London.”
In its report, sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the committee warns that if ‘levelling up’ investment neglects social infrastructure – such as community centres and childcare – and public services it will not help the most deprived areas:
“Without full transparency and political accountability local areas will continue to question why they have missed out on ‘levelling up’ funding while others have benefited.”
The committee wants the government to work with local service providers and users to set targets to improve, for example, life expectancy, employment, literacy and numeracy of children starting school and the number of entrants to higher education.
Baroness Armstrong, committee chair, said: “Not only places but the people who live in them should be at the heart of ‘levelling up’. Social infrastructure and support provided by public services is at least as critical to communities as investment in roads and bridges.
“Lack of funding for preventative health services, vocational education and for better literacy and numeracy among disadvantaged children has undermined the resilience of our poorest communities and further entrenched inequality.
“Successfully ‘levelling up’ will require a more holistic approach. A White Paper – which should be published urgently - is welcome but it’s unclear exactly what the government wants to level up, how much its strategy will cost, how long it will take and how it plans to achieve its goals.
“The strategy will require a major change of direction if it’s to achieve its admirable ambition for people in ‘left-behind’ areas to have the same opportunities as elsewhere in the country.”
Wigan Council supports the report, with leader, Councillor David Molyneux, commenting: “As we start to emerge from COVID-19 the stark inequalities across the country can no longer be ignored. The North needs to be treated equally and gain its fair share of investment and resources, levelling up the opportunities, investment, and ambitions.
“We know and understand our communities better than anyone else which is why the devolution agenda needs to be accelerated. If not, our residents will always be treated as second class citizens.”
Please read the position paper of the committee (external link), and share it wider.
Posted on Monday 24th May 2021