Levelling Up: what the plan is, and the role data will play

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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’.

This 12-mission plan sets out to:

Boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging  
  • Increase employment and productivity across all areas, closing the gap between the top and bottom performing areas.
  • Increase public sector investment in R&D and seek private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.
  • Improve public transport connectivity across the UK to be “significantly closer to the standards of London” including simpler fares and integrated ticketing.
  • Digital connectivity: to have nationwide broadband and 4G coverage, and 5G for the majority of the population.
Spread opportunities and improve public services, especially in those places where they are weakest 
  • Education: Increase the number of primary school children achieving expected standard in reading, writing and maths – with the worst performing areas increasing by over a third. 
  • Skills: Increase number of people with high-quality skills training
  • Health: close the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy between highest and lowest areas.
  • Wellbeing: improve wellbeing and close the gap between top performing areas and lowest performing.
Restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost 
  • Increase the sense of pride in place, defined as “people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community”, and narrow the gap between top performing areas and the lowest performing areas.
  • Housing: Increase the number of first-time buyers across all areas and improve the number of decent rented homes, particularly in the lowest performing areas.
  • Lower crime rates for homicide and serious violent neighbourhood incidences with a focus on the worst affected areas
Empower local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency 
  • Local leadership: provide a devolution deal for every part of England that wants one.


Six-capital focus

In order to achieve the above, there is a focus on addressing the drivers of spatial disparity that are observed across six ‘capitals’.

  • Physical capital – infrastructure, machines and housing.
  • Human capital – the skills, health and experience of the workforce.
  • Intangible capital – innovation, ideas and patents.
  • Financial capital – resources supporting the financing of companies.
  • Social capital – the strength of communities, relationships and trust.
  • Institutional capital – local leadership, capacity and capability.


Areas identified for ‘levelling up’

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.

The importance of data

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.


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