19 May 2022

What does the UK Government’s levelling up plans actually mean?

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Nearly three years on since the words were first mentioned, the Government has finally published its levelling up plans. But what does this mean for manufacturers, many of whom are located in areas that will be crucial to levelling up. Make UK chief executive, Stephen Phipson reports.

In short, the Government has defined levelling up as the steps needed to make us more prosperous, more united, and less unequal.

These ambitions are broken down into 12 missions to achieve the overarching aim of tackling regional disparity. But these missions can be better described as ‘targets’ or ‘metrics of success’ which set out in a quantifiable way, what the Government is wanting to achieve. Furthermore, the Government has also set a timeframe by which each of these missions must be achieved, 2030.

This gives us a clear idea of what the Government wants to achieve and by when. Holding Government to account in meeting these missions will be a new Levelling Up Advisory Council, who will track and measure the progress being made.

Unsurprisingly many of the announcements have been recycled from the 2021 Spending Review and the Government’s Plan for Growth. Equally, the funding is also not new – what was announced at the Spending Review back in 2021 is what is available to ‘level up’. This means the largest pots of funding purely dedicated to ‘levelling up’ available remain the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, the £220m UK Community Renewal Fund and the £3.6bn Towns Fund announced last year.

The Government has promised to engage further through Ministerial visits across the country, local panels, annual reporting of progress and even a public forum to share ideas. It is very much the first step in a very long journey. But buried on page. 168 we saw a nod towards working with the manufacturing sector which was good news, “…the UK Government will engage with manufacturers to ensure that we are maximising existing spending and non-spending policy levers and strategic investments to attract, anchor and grow manufacturing and supply chains to support levelling up”.

The true test of the Levelling Up White Paper will be the measurable change it brings to manufacturers and the 2.7 million people working in our sector across the country. With only two and a half years of this parliament remaining, time is ticking to demonstrate change, and fast.