The Medici Code

The Levelling Up White Paper: Reflections and Responses

The Medici Code

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The Levelling Up White Paper, released in February 2022, represents the most significant, comprehensive and wide-reaching UK government statement on devolution, geographic inequality and regional political economy in at least a decade. The paper filled the intellectual void at the heart of the ubiquitous Levelling Up Agenda with a theory of disparities between places and an outline for a long-term, cross-governmental policy regime against which to define and develop the future of regional economic development, as well as providing a framework for devolution to replace the piecemeal and case-by-case approach of recent years.

The Medici Code is a collection of responses to the Levelling Up White Paper written by Localis research staff and visiting fellows. The six pieces contained within analyse the White Paper from multiple perspectives including:

  • An overview of the paper’s strengths, flaws and the prospects for localists going forward from Joe Fyans, Localis head of research.
  • A planner’s perspective on the white paper from Catriona Riddell, Localis visiting fellow.
  • An analysis of the role of clean growth and decarbonisation in the white paper from Grace Newcombe, Localis lead clean growth researcher.
  • The role of councils in the white paper’s policy programme examined by Professor Colin Copus, Localis Visiting Fellow.

As was stressed at the time of its release, the Levelling Up White Paper represents the beginning of a conversation on how best to raise productivity and prosperity in all parts of the country. Even in times as pressing and crisis-laden as those we currently find ourselves – indeed, especially in such times – it is crucial that a vision is established for recovery and renewal which does not fall into the same traps as previous attempts to ‘level up’ under different names. The critiques in this collection are put forward in this spirit, aiming to nuance and challenge the diagnosis of the white paper, with a view towards a better prescription.

Essay contributors

  • Joe Fyans, head of research, Localis – “Right words, wrong actions”
  • Catriona Riddell, visiting fellow, Localis – “A planner’s view”
  • Callin McLinden, researcher, Localis – “Governance relationships in the white paper”
  • Zayn Qureshi, senior researcher, Localis – “High streets and Levelling Up
  • Professor Colin Copus, visiting fellow, Localis – “Levelling Up: Decentralisation, not devolution’
  • Grace Newcombe, lead clean growth researcher, Localis – “Clean growth and sustainability in the white paper”

Localis chief executive, Jonathan Werran, said: “We have to admire the ambition and vision of the new white paper as a sincere and deeply thoughtful attempt to turn the tide of the times and change the economic geography of the country.   As an analysis, this is excellent and really cannot be faulted as a literate and powerful assessment for an avowedly interventionist programme.

“However, from a localist perspective, the white paper, so acute and brilliant in its analysis, falls as soon as we see the dozen policy prescriptions. In short, the solutions are too complicated and too centralised and under-resourced for affecting dynamic place policy and changing the economic geography, and destiny of the country.

“This collection expounds upon this view, with contributions from the Localis team and visiting fellows Catriona Riddell and Prof. Colin Copus, to give a panoramic localist response to the white paper, its successes and failures, along with a view to how advocates of devolution can take the argument forward.”


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