THE GAP BETWEEN THE LEVEL OF RHETORIC AND REALITY – FE News
Landmark State of the North report reveals gap between leveling promises and political reality
North of England’s leading think tank today published research showing that despite the rhetoric, the UK is more regionally divided than ever – and that central government policy has so far undermined the leveling program.
More than two years after the Government promised to ‘level’ the country, IPPR North – which turns 18 this week – unveils startling results in its annual health check of the North of England economy, including:
- Funding for “race to the top” pales in comparison to local government austerity: The 2021 allocations from the Leveling Up Fund, which is controlled by the central government, represent an investment of just £32 per person in the North. This compares to a drop of £413 per person in the North and a drop of £388 across England in annual spending on municipal services over the past decade.
- The country is centralizing: Public expenditure is concentrated in the central administration. Four years ago, 95 pence on every pound paid in tax was levied by Whitehall (compared to just 65 pence in Germany). Despite the upgrade program, this is now up to 96p.
- Regional divides are deepening through a series of measures: For example, for every job created in the North, just under three were created in London and the ‘Greater South East’
- This has real and significant consequences for people: Working poverty has increased in the North from 3.4 million people in 2009/10 to 3.5 million in 2019/20.
IPPR North’s research also includes a new ‘Upgrade Pledge Tracker’*, which looks at the government’s progress on pledges made on its upgrade program and finds that many have been broken, scaled back or represent a reduction compared to other funding pots that they replace. This has impacted vital areas including jobs, net zero, education and skills, and could undermine political trust and participation.
But despite this, the North is demonstrating its potential – local people, communities and leaders are doing what it takes to catch up. For example, researchers found that the North produces 51% of England’s renewable energy. This is an example ‘the excellence of the north‘. However, they say the region’s full potential can only be realized when the central government is willing to devolve power and collaborate with regional and local governments and communities.
IPPR North Acting Director Arianna Giovannini said:
“Two years after the promise to level the country, the government’s rhetoric has reached fever pitch, but in reality they have once again over-promised and under-delivered to rebalance our economy.
“To succeed in scaling up, enabling people everywhere to live good lives, it will be necessary to build a hardwired economy for widespread prosperity, which fuels the net zero transition and provides everyone with access to a quality education throughout life.
“Broadening and deepening decentralization and building collaborative relationships between and across all levels of government are essential parts of the upgrading puzzle.. But reorganizing local government through the back door, false dawns, and further centralizing power and funding would be a huge mistake and level the country.”
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