To date there has been a lack of detail on London’s specific role in Levelling Up. This has led to suggestions that imply London will not be part of the Levelling Up Agenda, or even that London will be ‘Levelled Down’, says hgh Executive Director, Nick Belsten
Throughout the 320 or so pages of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper London is used as the ‘yardstick’ which simply overlooks the geographic and socioeconomic disparities across the capital. The most recent ONS unemployment figures show a widening economic gap for young Londoners with a 55% rise in youth unemployment since the start of the pandemic with 21% of all unemployed young people in the UK living in London. Health inequalities in London resulted in Covid mortalities that were far starker here than in other UK geographies. Let’s not forget that London also has a housing crisis and is facing huge challenges with increasing energy prices and cost of living rises.
Regeneration and housing delivery will be hit by government funding for major transport and infrastructure projects being redirected elsewhere. This will be further compounded by the proposed scrapping of the Treasury’s 80/20 funding rule that prioritises Homes England spending in places with low housing affordability, meaning less affordable housing is built in the capital.
Whilst it is right that other parts of the UK benefit from increased investment, London is the beating heart of the UK economy and so it is crucial to continue to invest in new development to deliver new jobs and homes.
Grant Shapps’ recent letter to the Leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council does little to support this, by quoting the recent Levelling Up White Paper and saying that it is now Government policy to “protect communities surrounding London from over development”. This suggests the government’s planning reforms are to be watered down stifling new development and much needed new homes, reducing investment and economic growth, and arguably undermining job creation.
Defenders will say that this doesn’t matter if the investment is diverted to somewhere in the north of England. But is that really likely to happen? It depends on what it is, but all experience suggests it’s more likely to be diverted to another country or another sector of the economy. Hence not only is the area around London disadvantaged but the whole UK economy.
‘As Localis’ report on London and Levelling Up points out, let’s not lose sight of the positive impact of investing in the capital’s regeneration areas and also shake off the myth of London being a ‘universally prosperous economic monolith’. If the UK’s economy hangs in the balance, we need level-headed thinking, not just Levelling Up.