Localis responds to the Levelling Up White Paper
Localis chief executive, Jonathan Werran, said: “We have to admire the ambition and vision of the Levelling Up White Paper as a sincere and deeply thoughtful attempt to turn the tide of the times and change the economic geography of the country so as to narrow stubbornly-entrenched social disparities.
“The extent to which this will succeed as a long-term programme for national renewal will depend on the extent to which Whitehall can be rewired and connected so spatial considerations are front and centre of national policymaking.
“Success will also depend on the extent to which our centralised constitution and Westminster political system grants greater elasticity in allowing local leadership to flourish and deliver on those of the 12 levelling up missions where the local state can use its powers of convening, financing and procurement to bear with greatest impact.
“The offer to grant every part of England that wants one, a high level devolution deal by the end of the decade – and with a simplified and long-term funding settlement – offers potentially a route to strong local leadership everywhere and allows the ‘retro’ and partially-rural to rapidly catch up with the ‘metro’ cities.
“Clearly at the top of the Christmas tree for ministers is a government-approved functional economic geography with a directly-elected leader. But devolution implies different ways of doing things in different places, and lower branches of the tree should also be given a fair shake of consideration.
“Finally, the news that Local Enterprise Partnerships now have the chance to evolve and adapt their functions and accountability within the devolved structures being proposed in the Levelling Up White Paper is unvarnished good news.
“During the darkest days of the 2020 lockdown, LEPs proved their worth in their ability to devise and deliver strategic oven-ready economic recovery plans – armed with unrivalled local knowledge, insight and hard data – for many local areas.
“An abiding failure of post-war economic recovery has been a harmful lack of continuity amid the constant political chopping and changing of bodies responsible for supporting local economic growth and the subsequent loss of institutional memory. As Localis has recently argued, the government would have needed to invent something that looked, talked and acted like LEPs to deliver on Levelling Up in any case.
“As a nation, this is not our first rodeo when it comes to devising national plans aimed at rebalancing the economy. Realising a long-term vision such as levelling up will require decades of consistency in national political focus and effective pan-government co-ordination, continual fiscal irrigation in spraying funding across successive spending reviews to our localities and trusted local leaders.”