The Government has renewed its commitment to levelling up as part of the recovery from the pandemic, with new announcements focusing on better access to high-quality education, improved infrastructure in town centres, and more public sector jobs outside of London.
These include details of a further 57 English high streets to receive a share of more than £830 million to improve transport links, build new homes and transform under-used spaces, as part of the Future High Streets Fund.
The Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are the latest government departments to relocate thousands of civil service jobs out of London, to Salford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Darlington and Stoke-on-Trent.
And the Department for Education is investing an additional £18 million in 12 more ‘opportunity areas’ to help early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities work together to ensure all children and young people reach their full potential.
The announcements were made as a new report from the House of Lords’ Public Services Committee called on the Government to adopt a “more holistic approach” to the levelling up agenda, to ensure areas dubbed “left-behind” are not “short-changed”.
Its position paper on levelling up and public services concludes that the Government needs to give local authorities and other local service providers more autonomy for levelling up to be successful, and criticises current funding mechanisms for being overly centralised.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “The pandemic has shown that, with the right funding and freedoms, councils can improve people’s lives. It is important that this report recognises that the COVID-19 recovery needs to include greater powers for local councils and their communities.
“With the right powers and sustainable funding in the Government’s forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper, councils can work closely with businesses and local partners to help the Government meet its ambition to level up the country.”