Levelling up is a central plank of the government’s economic policy, focused on less well-off parts of the country and how to bring them up to the living standards elsewhere in the UK.
Following the publication of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, Centre for London is undertaking research and advocacy to shape this agenda so that it reflects the scale of the challenges within London and recognises the importance of the capital to the UK’s economy.
The Levelling Up White Paper
Prior to the publication of the White Paper, we heard some fairly anti London briefings from government. But we were pleased to see that the document itself acknowledged London’s challenges, particularly high house prices, high pollution and long journey times, and some acknowledgement of inequalities within our city. While some of this change in tone may reflect changing political realities, we also think that concerted effort from London’s leaders and from London’s institutions has made a difference in keeping attention on the very real problems of poverty and inequality in the city.
But there is still more to be done. We are contributing to this important debate through a multi-stage research project on London’s own levelling up challenges and its contribution to the rest of the country.
Phase 1: Understanding the challenge in London
There is a poor understanding in some places of the scale of the socio-economic challenges within London, despite the city having the worst levels of poverty and deprivation of any part of the country. Through the first phase of research, we will build a more persuasive argument on the need to level up within London.
We will seek to frame the question about how we talk about poverty and place. Working with charities, think tanks and other experts we will build a picture of who is struggling in London and discuss the risks presented by cuts to public services and transport. We will look at demographic differences at a local level, inequalities in health and wellbeing and work-based inequalities and we’ll listen to the views of Londoners to understand their concerns around London’s levelling up challenges. We’ll also look at the shared challenges with the rest of the UK.
Work already underway includes:
- In October 2021 we published new polling undertaken by Savanta which revealed that Londoners support levelling up outside the capital, but think government isn’t addressing London’s problems. Find out more.
- In February 2022 held an online briefing exploring whether Transport for London funding crisis marked the start of levelling down. Catch up.
- While much national focus is often directed outside of London, in March 2022 we’re hosting a conference to explore the challenges and opportunities of levelling up within east and southeast London. A decade on from the Olympics, how can benefits for local communities be maximised – in terms of employment, opportunity and quality of life, and social infrastructure? Find out more about the conference.
- The report for phase one will be published in the summer.
Phase 2: London’s contribution
Too much of the debate seems to focus on London needing to be poorer for elsewhere to be richer. As the current Prime Minister himself said back in 2012 when Mayor of London – “If you’re going to drive the UK economy you’ve got to invest in London.” We need to find new and persuasive ways of saying this. We will construct a new narrative on why London’s success matters to the whole country.
The second phase of this research will explore London’s dual role as the seat of government and as a home to millions. We will listen to Londoners’ and others’ views of London’s relationship with the rest of the country, including its links with other metro mayors and regions. We will look in detail at London’s economic contribution, industry and productivity, supply chains, trade and investment and how it spreads this wealth more evenly across the country. And we will discuss London’s social contribution, its soft power, its place within our nation’s identity and as a source of national pride.
The report for phase two will be published in the autumn.
As London’s dedicated think tank, and because of our independence and track record of convening leading organisations and decision-makers, Centre for London is uniquely placed to lead on this work.
We are looking to work with a range of stakeholders on this work. If you are interested in getting involved. If you’d like to join us, contact Claire Harding, Research Director.