The UK government has set out a transformative levelling up plan for the nation. It covers 12 ‘levelling up’ missions to tackle geographic disparities, and promote inclusive opportunities, with a particular focus on ‘forgotten communities’.
In order to achieve the above, there is a focus on addressing the drivers of spatial disparity that are observed across six ‘capitals’.
The Levelling Up agenda focuses on hyper-local disparities – where there are greater differences within regions rather than between them. It is aimed at pockets of deprivation and disparity within towns, cities and regions – and seeks to look at the drivers of these spatial disparities. It takes into account those places disproportionately affected by certain socio-economic factors and those that have low social mobility.
These areas characteristically have high deprivation, community need and poor opportunities. With many located in former industrial communities or ex-industrial towns (North East Lincolnshire, Middlesbrough and Neath Port Talbot) as well as deprived urban areas (Kingston upon Hull, Knowsley, Tameside, Sandwell); and coastal communities – Blackpool, Tendring, Redcar and Cleveland.
However, it also addresses internal inequalities in the UK’s most prosperous cities – Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. This includes too, London, which despite its overall economic prosperity still has pockets of high deprivation within its boroughs.
Access to good quality data at a granular level will play a key role in delivering desired outcomes. We can use this data to help us understand where we are now and where we want to reach – and to help us to make informed decisions. As part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, there is a plan to disseminate more granular open-source data. The government recently published the GSS subnational data strategy that proposes a framework to produce more ‘granular, harmonised and timely subnational statistics’. It emphasises the need to produce more easily accessible subnational data, particularly for smaller geographies. This seeks to improve the data landscape and will be especially useful for helping understand the relationship between characteristics and outcomes at a local level.
At OCSI, we welcome plans to disseminate more open data and emphasise the importance of evidence, monitoring and evaluation to assess progress towards levelling up ‘left-behind’ communities. As the report states, ‘high-quality, timely and robust spatial data are a foundational pillar of the new policy regime for levelling up’. OCSI will continue to ensure that Local Insight remains a single point of reference for all granular data in order to facilitate greater understanding of the UK’s complex social and economic geography and allow key organisations working to level up communities to tailor policies to local needs.