Levelling up requires devolving down

Levelling up has meant “everything and nothing” for some people because they “haven’t been able to get a fix on it” – not my words, but those of Michael Gove MP, on his 36th day as Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities.

Mr Gove was speaking at the LGA’s most recent Councillors’ Forum, and he was refreshingly clear about what he sees as the four elements of levelling up.

These are: strengthening local leadership; improving living standards (particularly where they are lower); improving the quality of public services (particularly where they are poor); and making sure people have a “proper pride” in the place they call home. 

We are looking forward to seeing these ambitions – and a strategy for delivering them – set out in the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, due out before Christmas.

Because we are also quite clear about what it will take to deliver levelling up – and that is a place-based strategy with real devolution of powers to local government. The default should be devolution.

Councils have demonstrated strong leadership throughout the pandemic, yet the UK remains one of the most centralised countries in the democratic world.

As we look towards a recovery that works for all, now is the right time to bring forward an ambitious new devolution settlement that gives councils the powers and funding they need to address regional inequality, tackle concentrations of deprivation and make our towns and communities attractive places to live, work and visit.

Encouragingly, Mr Gove also told us he was keen to “get behind local government, empower local government, and consider how we can drive devolution further”.

We have set out some ideas about how we can do this, and we look forward to working with councils and government to make this ambition a reality. I continue at every opportunity to emphasise that if we are to successfully build back better from this pandemic, it has to be local.



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