Levelling Up Local Inquiry: Funding and alignment

On 22nd March 2022 the LGA hosted the first roundtable of the ‘Levelling up Locally Inquiry’ exploring the theme of funding and alignment.

Decorative banner with vertical stripes in various colours

The aim of the session was to explore practical questions about how the levelling up agenda might be paid for and, at a more granular level, the opportunities to align policy and funding interventions at the local level to improve the quality of public service outcomes and address concentrations of deprivation.

The roundtable was attended by representatives from a range of organisations including King’s Fund, Manchester University, Wates Group, New Philanthropy Capital, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Welsh Local Government Association, Shared Intelligence, Social Investment Business, Association of Directors of Children’s Services and WPI Economics.

The session opened with a presentation from Professor Philip McCann, professor of urban and regional economics at the University of Sheffield Management School who discussed the scale of investment required for the levelling up agenda, drawing on international perspectives. Professor McCann discussed why levelling up has become the focus of government policy and contextualised the high concentrations of intraregional and interregional inequalities the UK faces. He explored the way in which the UK’s fiscal system is a hinderance to the levelling up agenda; there is a slide pack below with his full presentation.

This was followed by a talk from Matt Whittaker, Chief Executive Officer at Pro Bono Economics who shared his views around where the money for the levelling up agenda would be best spent and how we can ensure resources play to the strength of local institutions. Matt began sharing findings from recent research conducted by Pro Bono Economics which found most people want a locally led approach to the levelling up agenda, tackling issues wider than merely good economic growth. Matt reflected on civil society as a route to levelling up the United Kingdom and then provided practical thoughts about what he’d like to see around funding and alignment following the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper. These included the creation of a ‘levelling up champion’ role in central government; the creation of local regeneration hubs; and the ringfencing of existing funding pots to give greater weight to social capital.

The session concluded with a wider discussion among attendees predominantly based around governance and funding allocations. Attendees explored the need to rethink fiscal structures underpinning devolved geographies and the question of whether additional funding is required for the agenda, or rather the tweaking of existing funding formulas to reallocate resources is what is really required. There was further discussion around the role local government plays in meeting the agenda and the need for clarity around what freedoms councils want in order to spend the money. The scale of ambition of the Levelling Up White Paper was explored as well as the role of other stakeholders and sectors such as the NHS and charities and businesses.

The next roundtable in the ‘Levelling up Locally Inquiry’ will explore the theme of leadership and, following this, steering group members will meet to discuss emerging recommendations.


Resources

Fiscal Decentralisation and Levelling Up - Philip McCann (University of Sheffield)