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The Levelling Up agenda

Dan Stoppard-Holden, Associate Director Associate Director 22/07/2022

When ‘levelling up’ was first unveiled as a central driver of public policy for the 2020s, coronavirus was a niche concern, few people knew the name of Ukraine’s President and Boris Johnson was looking down the barrel of a full parliamentary term with an outright majority.

The changes the public think are most likely to be achieved by Government do not correspond with what people see as the most important thing that should be addressed in their area.

A few things have changed since then, but the challenges that precipitated the levelling up agenda are long-standing and have barely changed in the last decade.

The UK experiences some of the greatest economic inequality between regions of the world’s richest countries, and whoever next occupies Number 10 will have to contend with that, no matter how the policy is badged.

Savanta recently conducted research for the Salvation Army to understand perceptions of the regional inequalities and the levelling up agenda in Red Wall seats.

The landscape of Red Wall electoral politics may well be more informed by Partygate and other news stories. Still, as a view into the opinions of those that the levelling up agenda is largely aimed at, it offers great insight into what challenges the agenda faces.

We provide a description of levelling up to respondents and then asked them what their top three priorities would be for the whole country, as well as for their local area.

Q. Thinking about ‘Levelling Up’, which of the following areas do you think are the most important in achieving that for your local area?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the affordability of housing came up top as priorities at both a national and local level.

Q. In order to achieve its ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, the Government has published 12 missions it seeks to achieve by 2030. Below are summaries of what these missions are. For each of them please indicate how likely you think it is that they will be delivered?

The changes the public think are most likely to be achieved by Government do not correspond with what people see as the most important thing that should be addressed in their area. Those in the Red Wall think that it is unlikely that the government will increase the number of first-time buyers in every area (44% say unlikely vs 29% say likely), even though this is their top priority issue.

Similarly, those in the Red Wall think increasing broadband, 4G and 5G coverage is most likely to be achieved; this is the issue seen as the lowest priority both nationally and locally.

Recent by-election results have not only contributed to Boris Johnson’s resignation but they are also showing cracks in the Conservative hold on the Red Wall. Holding on to these seats in any upcoming general election is as imperative for any future Conservative Party leader as it is for Labour to gain these seats back.

What our research shows as a challenge for politicians and policymakers alike is that the people policies are aimed at helping, sometimes the why, what and how of policy is not enough, the public also wants to feel the government can.

Methodology: Savanta interviewed 2,003 UK adults aged 18+ living in Red Wall seats online between 17th March 2022 and 25th March 2022.

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