The UK2070 Commission led by Lord Kerslake has set out a post-Covid action plan seeking to address the country’s economic dependency on London, with comprehensive devolution and a national spatial plan among its recommendations.
In February this year, Kerslake called for a £200bn investment programme over the next 20 years to support growth outside the capital, and the group said the pandemic has further exposed its current dependency.
Kerslake said in his report: “The pandemic has not been a leveller, it has reduced access to job opportunities, tested basic services to the limit and exposed and reinforced existing patterns of inequality.”
The Commission has now published its Go Big, Go Local report, led by a 10-point plan:
- A spatially just transition to zero-carbon to seize the opportunity to tackle climate change and rebalance the economy, ensuring there is an explicit spatial dimension to the UK’s plan to become zero-carbon by 2050
- Delivering a connectivity revolution: investing in transformation of the connections between cities, within cities and beyond cities to poorly connected towns through increasing infrastructure investment to at least 3% of GDP per year
- Creating new global centres of excellence: harnessing increased investment in R&D to create ‘hub and spoke’ networks of excellence and growth across the country comparable to the economic impact of the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge
- Strengthening the foundations of local economies in disadvantaged towns and empowering local leadership to develop economic capacity and promote resilience and wellbeing
- Rethinking the housing crisis: recognising housing as part of national infrastructure and ensuring that the supply of new housing is aligned with the needs of the economy
- Harnessing cultural and environmental assets: increasing the focus of policy and funding on assets outside of London
- Implementing a comprehensive devolution: shifting power and funding away from Westminster and Whitehall through a radical programme of devolution and allowing different places to progress through different levels of devolution according to local ambition, need and capacity
- Future-skilling the UK: tackling the historic under-performance of the UK on skills through national plans to raise attainment levels, especially in those skills needed to achieve the levels of the best performing places
- Levelling up access to funds: tripling the size of the shared prosperity fund for 20 years, with clear spatial priorities, delivering an extra expenditure of £200bn on top of that already planned
- Shaping the UK2070 Future. A National Spatial Plan for England: tasking the National Infrastructure Commission with creating a national spatial plan for England and linking to those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to guide investment and to support local and regional spatial plans.
UK2070 chairman Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Home Civil Service, explained: “Our new Post-Covid Action Plan sets out a proposed programme of action which unlocks capacity and delivers action at scale through local democratic leadership. We are calling on the Government to Go Big, Go Local.
“We’re saying what is missing is a clear plan setting out the scale and form of levelling up, the actions required to deliver it and measures and milestones to success.
“Covid-19 may have changed the path to delivery of levelling up but not its urgency and importance. The temptation of the government will be to rein in their ambitions and spending. This would be a serious error. To have any meaningful impact, what is needed now is a New Deal for Levelling Up.”
The report in full can be downloaded from the UK2070 website.
The UK2070 Commission was set up in 2018 as an independent inquiry into city and regional inequalities, and has issued various reports since, pulling together expertise from various academic institutions and private sector businesses, led by Turner & Townsend.