Commenting on the Levelling up White Paper published today, Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said:
“Levelling up is a vast agenda, from regenerating towns and building infrastructure, to creating economic clusters and developing skills. Today's paper was never going to be the panacea for regional inequality but it does show a commitment to build on approaches that are working, such as further interventions in existing Opportunity Areas like Bradford.
“Businesses have a vital role to play, but they’re only part of the picture. Success requires businesses, educators, planners, local government and NGOs all working in sync. We've seen the so-called ‘Medici effect’ in Bradford where when you start creating an ecosystem it acts as a magnet - people stay in the city, businesses and investment are drawn there. Our office in Bradford has nearly trebled in size in three years, and like many firms we’re looking to further increase our footprint outside London.”
Education and skills
Kevin Ellis added:
“It's encouraging to see the focus on education and skills. This has to go hand in hand with job creation, or you’ll still end up with a brain drain to more prosperous areas. That’s why levelling-up has to be multi-faceted, so people can envisage a fulfilling life and career in their location and choose to stay put.
“The paper acknowledges the importance of skills in sectors 'including green, digital and construction'. PwC research highlights that regional and societal disparities are already arising in green skills and jobs. Employers should help signpost and shape the skills they need - schools and universities can’t second guess what business requires.”
Justin Martin, Devolved and Local Government Lead at PwC, said:
“The White Paper is a welcome sign of the Government’s recognition that it needs to keep its promise to level up the country and shift power to communities, particularly those outside of London and the South East. The funding being made available to different regions will play an important role in addressing some of the underlying issues that drive inequality. The focus on green growth is particularly welcome and critically important. We’re already seeing organisations in many areas pursuing strategies that capitalise on the rise of low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive industries.
“The paper acknowledges that funding, infrastructure support and investment in technology are only part of the equation. We know from our own work that attention also needs to be given to the differing experiences of people living in different parts of the country. Every community is unique and will need its own unique solution and plan. Affordable housing, access to high quality employment, skills, health, community safety and the quality of the built and natural environment are all important factors in determining the success of individual places over the long term. The announcement of the 12 levelling up ‘missions’ is therefore welcome, particularly the pledges to reduce regional disparities in R&D investment, crime, skills, primary education, health and housing quality. The plans developed at the local level will need to incorporate measures of success and tangible outcomes in each of these areas. The offer for more areas to take up the metro mayor model will be welcomed by some. Others, particularly more rural areas, will want to pursue devolution under their existing governance models.
“Regional inequality is a complex and long term problem and it will take a long term programme of significant investment and integrated policy to successfully level up and deliver on this aspiration.”
Over the course of the last year, as part of its Future of Government programme, PwC has conducted research examining the disparities that exist across the UK with a focus on geography, social mobility, gender and ethnicity. The research sets out the need for Government and businesses to work together and ensure these inequalities are front of mind in the green and fair recovery.
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