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Labour Launches Levelling Up Plans: Bridging Regional Inequalities

In the complex political landscape of Britain, “levelling up” has re-emerged as a crucial battleground, with Labour and the Conservatives locked in a struggle to define its meaning, implement tangible goals, and manage implications.

With forthcoming local elections, Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer and Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner are seizing upon this rhetoric, aiming to make it a cornerstone of their campaign strategy.

More Than Just Lip Service

Labour’s approach to levelling up has been framed as a critique of the Conservative Government’s handling of regional inequalities. Starmer and Rayner have not minced their words, accusing former Prime Minister Boris Johnson of merely paying lip service to the concept without backing it with substantial financial support. They particularly singled Rishi Sunak, alleging that his refusal to allocate adequate funds effectively as Chancellor “killed” the policy at its inception. This stance reflects Labour’s broader narrative of championing the interests of neglected regions and communities.

In response, the Tories have vehemently defended their record on levelling up. The Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove rebutted Labour’s claims, highlighting the significant investments made by the Government across various regions through initiatives like Investment Zones, freeports, and the Long-Term Plan for Towns programme. He portrayed Labour as lacking a coherent strategy, suggesting that their approach would regress the progress made in addressing regional disparities.

The Importance of Addressing Regional Inequalities

The clash between Labour and Conservative ideologies on levelling up underscores the broader ideological divisions within British politics. However, amidst the partisan bickering, there is a recognition of the importance of addressing regional inequalities across party lines. Both sides acknowledge the urgency of the issue, even if they diverge on the methods and priorities.

Looking ahead to the local council elections on May 2nd, Starmer and Rayner are strategically positioning themselves in regions where the Labour Party seeks to regain lost ground. Their campaign launch in a Black Country seat, which swung to the Tories in 2019, underscores their intent to confront the Conservatives head-on in areas where they have made inroads.

levelling up Labour speech from Keir Starmer
Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer pledges to level up better than the Conservatives.

Connecting the Council to the Commons

Central to Labour’s levelling up agenda is the connection between local councils and national policymaking. Starmer has highlighted the dire funding situation faced by councils, emphasising that reversing it will not be a simple task for Labour. He underscores the need for collaboration between local and national governments, with mayors and councils developing local growth plans that align with broader national strategies.

Crucially, Starmer argues that local growth plans cannot exist in isolation – they must be supported by clear commitments and resources from the central government. This entails a transparent and credible strategy that ensures local areas are not left adrift when political winds shift. Labour’s vision for levelling up hinges on a cohesive partnership between different tiers of government, with each playing a complementary role in driving inclusive growth and prosperity.

Policy Institute Curia to Launch Levelling Up Commission Report

It is interesting timing that independent policy institute, Curia is set to publish their forthcoming Levelling Up Commission report setting out ways for a new government to hit the ground running and implement levelling up faster and more effectively than the current Government’s record.

There is an opportunity for a new government to deliver levelling up at a faster pace if they can share implementable solutions for their civil servants to run with from day one of a new government.

Over the coming weeks, Curia will be publishing excerpts with subscribers to the Curia Industrial Strategy Research Group receiving insight as to what a new government can deliver.

Final Thought

The debate over levelling up encapsulates the broader contestation over the future direction of British politics. While Labour and the Conservatives vie for office, the imperative of addressing regional inequalities remains paramount.

The good news is that Labour are not wanting to reinvent the wheel. The concept of levelling up remains, if slightly reformed to focus more on driving down inequalities. Policy institutes like Curia have made this case for years. However, proof will be in the pudding as to whether a new government can implement levelling up in reality.

Regardless of party allegiance, the success of any levelling up initiative will depend on a genuine commitment to cooperation and collaboration across political divides.

To find out more about Curia’s work and the Levelling Up Commission report, contact team@curiauk.com.

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