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Levelling up: the IfG view on the white paper

The white paper does not provide a clear-sighted diagnosis for tackling regional inequalities. 

A woman on a bike on an empty high street

The Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper is a genuine attempt by the government to turn a campaigning slogan into a plan of action – one that can measured and, eventually, judged. It defines ‘levelling up’ in broad terms, confirming it does relate to all kinds of regional inequality.

To its credit, the government does not pretend to be the first to have identified or tried to tackle these problems. Instead, it sets out why – in its view – previous attempts failed and why the contents of its new white paper mean this time will be different. But despite no fewer than 350 pages of dense analysis, the white paper does not provide a clear-sighted diagnosis. The proposals for further devolution of powers and rewiring of Whitehall are welcome and could be genuinely radical but in the absence of a clear sense of priorities about which issues are most important, and where intervention can be most effective, the government risks falling well short of its targets. This Insight paper sums up our snap analysis of the document, and finds that:

  • Levelling up has broad ambition but that also risks a lack of focus.
  • The white paper’s economic analysis is thorough but not a helpful guide for policy.
  • The new economic policies announced do not match the ambition of the broader agenda.
  • The focus on measuring levelling up is welcome.
  • The proposals to reform policy making at the centre of government are welcome but under-developed.
  • The devolution proposals are genuinely radical.

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