News

University of Derby addresses inequality in national report on levelling up

21 January 2022

The University of Derby has joined leading voices from across policy and politics, to contribute to a new report aimed at addressing inequality ahead of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper being released.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Associate Professor in History and Impact Larissa Allwork, and Head of Regional Development & Policy Gaynor Davis, are part of a group of 16 leading thinkers on levelling up who have written the report, Levelling Up - What is it and can it work, published by the Centre for Inequality and Levelling Up (CEILUP) at the University of West London.

The contributions come from representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group for ‘Left Behind’ Neighbourhoods, Rt Hon Justine Greening ex Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, Lord Filkin, Policy Connect, Local Trust, Gordon Marsden ex Shadow Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education, The Salvation Army, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and universities from across the UK.

Contributors agree that a hyper-local approach focused on the needs of the most challenged communities is needed to achieve change, all based on a holistic approach to tackling inequality. The report also outlines a more system-thinking approach that connects policies to address levelling up together with broader policy agendas, all based on seven key principles. These are:

  1. ‘Hyper devolve’ power to local communities and areas in greatest need: Devolution needs to be localised rather than ‘a reshuffling of the deckchairs’ at county or regional level.
  2. Make civil society partners in levelling up: Universities, charities, trades unions, and community groups all have a huge role to play in levelling up.
  3. No one model of place exists to ‘level up’ to: Looking at how levelling up is and could be working in Stoke, Derby and London shows how it requires new models of working where the strengths of all places are recognised.
  4. Invest in ‘social’ as well as ‘physical’ infrastructure: Public services, childcare, green spaces, health, and education are at the heart of how people feel and experience where they live. The White Paper cannot ignore this in favour of eye-catching new buildings and roads.
  5. Focus on real economic and social outcomes: Higher wages and greater job security for those in the lowest paid work are essential if levelling up is to have any real meaning.
  6. Make long term financial commitments and monitor their progress: Contributors point to the need for a community right-to- buy scheme to locally own vital assets; a community wealth fund, and for the new UK Infrastructure Bank to have broader measures of success.
  7. Avoid competition between places and people: As one of the contributors commented, true levelling up will not be achieved through a succession of beauty parades for small pots of cash, and nor should towns be pitched against cities or coastal communities. It is crucial to identify areas in most need and do it correctly, without excluding other areas.

‘Levelling Up - What is it and can it work’ follows an earlier report from CEILUP exploring how the first round of levelling up funding was distributed, showing that five of the 10 poorest areas of the country were overlooked.

Editor of the Professor Graeme Atherton, Head of the Centre for Inequality and Levelling Up, said:

“This report collection lays out a road map to deliver levelling up that is based on what we know works where addressing inequality is concerned and would also command support from the communities that need the most support and the organisations that work in them.

“It is clear that given the scale of the levelling up challenge, a bold and innovative agenda that cut across all parts of economic and social policy and geographical boundaries is required, and this report provides one.”

Paul Howell MP co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods said:

“It is brilliant to see a range of influential voices coming together to support this agenda around looking local to level up from the bottom-up. A targeted approach is needed with investment prioritised for the places that need it most. This collection of essays sets out the key steps and approaches for how we can make levelling up work for everyone, and not just now but for the future, and as co-chair of the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods I am very pleased to support it.”

Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods said:

“There is a growing consensus around what is needed to truly level up ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and it is about taking a hyper-local, neighbourhood level approach over the long-term.

“This publication, informed by people from across the political spectrum and from multiple disciplines, suggests levelling up needs to start at the grassroots and invest in people and places, something that must be recognised by the government’s upcoming White Paper.”

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL added:

“At Derby, we are committed to helping tackle inequality and know what positive outcomes can be achieved when businesses, universities, policy makers and advisory organisations come together to drive forward positive change regionally and nationally.

“This is why we are delighted to be part of this collaboration to bring together such varied and insightful ways of addressing the levelling up agenda and the challenges associated with it.”

The Centre and contributors will continue to push for the outlined principles and polices to be adopted by policymakers to help deliver real, lasting improvements for communities and individuals.

Read the full report.

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at pressoffice@derby.ac.uk or call 01332 593953.