September 28, 2021
Start afresh each time
There are some fields of endeavour where progress builds on past achievements. Medical science for instance. What was learned in the development of the Covid vaccine will forever be recorded in the annals of science and used in the future. It would be insane, and a shocking waste of resources if we didn’t. Reading a report from the Young Foundation commissioned to support the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda is like an excerpt from Groundhog Day. It’s as if we learn nothing each time we set about this challenge. Cue more insanity and a shocking waste of resources.
Full report here “Why don’t they ask us?” – The role of communities in levelling up.
This report has three aims:
- To provide an overview of regional development in England from the turn of the century to the present.
- To highlight trends of inconsistency and inequality, both between areas and within areas of England, across four epochs.
- To propose new approaches that prioritise the self-determined needs of communities and engage them more deeply in the development process – giving them a greater stake in the success of their communities.
Its key findings are that:
- Interventions have consistently failed to address the most deprived communities, contributing to a 0% average change in the relative spatial deprivation of the most deprived local authorities areas;
- The majority of ‘macro funds’ and economic interventions over the last two decades have not involved communities in a meaningful nor sustainable way;
- The focus of interventions to build local economic resilience typically concentrate on a relatively small number of approaches, which risks missing crucial dimensions of local need, opportunity and agency, and reinforcing gaps between the national and the hyper-local;
- Interventions have tended to concentrate on ‘between-place’ spatial disparities in economic growth at the expense of ‘within-place’ inequalities that exist inside local authority boundaries, which is where the economic strength or weakness of a place is most keenly felt by communities.
- Where funds and interventions have had higher levels of community involvement, these have typically been disconnected from the structures where decisions are taken, undermining their aim of building community power into local economic solutions.
The report poses four essential questions for policy makers:
1.Through what lens and at what spatial level should levelling up interventions be targeted to have the most impact on and resonance with communities?
- How can the gap be closed between local community priorities and those of regional and national funds and interventions?
- What alternative mechanisms and new approaches are needed if levelling up is to target the most deprived communities?
4.What are the enabling strategies that tackle chronic problems such as post-industrial economic decline, which need to cut across spatial & governance boundaries?
5.The funding allocated to level up is not sufficient to counteract the decade long impact of public sector cuts which have reduced the capacity of many places to capitalise on economic intervention; nor is it enough to counteract the financial impact of Covid-19 and Brexit for the most deprived places. A list of recommendations based on the findings of this report is provided in the conclusion