Devolve, redirect, democratise

25th May 2021.

The future of local economic development in the UK

Local economic development should serve to ensure that economic gains are delivering social benefits at scale and are working within environmentally sustainable limits. Yet, at the latest count,14 million people are now living in poverty in the UK, zero hours contracts have recently hit a record high and the updated Marmot Review has revealed a stalling life expectancy for the first time in a century.

“Levelling up” is the latest in a long line of much-heralded, yet flawed, national policy initiatives, promising to turbo charge economic development and address decades of longstanding inequality, and variations in economic performance across the country. This paper provides a brief history as to how the UK has consistently failed to address longstanding and persistent geographical disparities in economic and social conditions and proposes three central tenets to reshape local economic development in the UK, with a view to addressing the failings to date: devolve, redirect, democratise.