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Insight paper

Where next for levelling up?: Five challenges for governments looking to address regional inequality

This short paper highlights five key challenges that any government seeking to reduce regional inequalities will need to address.

Boris Johnson at a construction site
As prime minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to 'level up' the country, but the agenda appears to have stalled.

The promise to ‘level up’ the country was central to the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, and was the latest in a long line of government commitments to tackle longstanding regional inequalities. A series of Institute for Government and Policy@Manchester roundtables explored the progress of levelling up – and the policy and structural changes needed to make genuine and identifiable progress in reducing regional inequalities.

Both main UK-wide parties remain committed to addressing regional inequalities. But whoever wins the next election will need to learn lessons from the successes and failures of the levelling up agenda, and its predecessors. This short paper summarises six events held across 2023 between the IfG and The University of Manchester's policy engagement institute, Policy@Manchester. It highlights five key challenges that any government will need to address if it is to succeed in tackling regional inequalities. These are:

  1. Delivering consistent and coordinated policy for the long term
  2. Resolving the tension between focusing on cities and towns
  3. Getting the devolution settlement in England right
  4. Building strong local institutions
  5. Fixing the local government funding system

Thomas Pope is deputy chief economist at the Institute for Government

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