Levelling up paper falls way short of what is needed

This article originally appeared in Infrastructure Intelligence.

As an organisation with a keen interest in and focus on improving the health and vitality of local economies, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) has much to say about the government’s levelling up white paper. Crucially, we believe that the document falls far short of the six tests we set ahead of its release.

Firstly, on its purpose. Levelling up is, at long last, evolving from a catchy electoral slogan and we now have an emerging basket of indicators for success. But it’s not yet clear how these national ambitions will translate into local delivery which supports opportunities for everyone. There is nothing in the indicators about addressing wealth inequality or poverty, for example.

Making financial power work for local places

This article originally appeared in Responsible Finance

Recent years have seen a growing number of local councils across the UK, including Birmingham, Sandwell and Wigan, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales adopting community wealth building to develop collaborative solutions to local social and economic problems. In contrast to the UK Government’s much-touted levelling up agenda, community wealth building is a tested method for people-centred local economic development that brings real change to local places.

Community wealth building is about a more progressive form of local economics. It helps to increase the flow of wealth back into local communities enabling people to start businesses, develop skills and access jobs. One of the ways in which it does this is by harnessing the economic power of “anchor institutions”, such as local authorities, NHS trusts, colleges and housing associations, to strengthen the economic resilience, social cohesion and environmental health of local places. Through the strategic use of their spending, hiring and asset use anchor institutions can deploy their economic power to support the development and growth of local businesses. Ensuring that all businesses and social enterprises have access to fair and ethical finance is a key component of community wealth building.


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