A new report backed by a committee of peers is challenging the Government’s levelling up strategy and its soon-to-be-published White Paper by asking them to focus on supporting social infrastructure.
In the House of Lords Public Services Committee report, peers have warned that if the Government doesn’t focus on the NHS, schools, and councils as part of its levelling up strategy, deprived areas will get further behind, and social inequality will grow.
They urge Government ministers to use the ‘levelling up’ White Paper, due to be published later this year, “to refocus their strategy to improve health, employment and skills and better prepare children for school if they want more jobs, productivity and pay in deprived communities,” read the committee report.
According to the Government website, the White Paper will articulate “bold new policy interventions” that will “improve opportunity and boost livelihoods across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”
It continued: “Despite the challenges of COVID-19, levelling up and ensuring that the whole UK can benefit from the same access to opportunities remains core to the Government’s vision.”
Peers believe that the government’s levelling up strategy “does not recognise high levels of deprivation in many parts of the country including parts of London,” where ministers have been accused of allocating funding to more prosperous rural areas over deprived communities.
The committee’s aim is for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been sent their report, to confirm that the Government’s levelling up strategy will focus on “social infrastructure – such as community centres and childcare – and public services.”
According to a released statement, “the committee wants the government to work with local service providers and users to set targets to improve, for example, life expectancy, employment, literacy, and numeracy of children starting school and the number of entrants to higher education.”
“Without full transparency and political accountability, local areas will continue to question why they have missed out on ‘levelling up’ funding while others have benefited,” it continued.
Baroness Armstrong, committee chair, said: “Not only places but the people who live in them should be at the heart of ‘levelling up’. Social infrastructure and support provided by public services are at least as critical to communities as investment in roads and bridges.
“Lack of funding for preventative health services, vocational education, and better literacy and numeracy among disadvantaged children has undermined the resilience of our poorest communities and further entrenched inequality.
“Successfully ‘levelling up’ will require a more holistic approach. A White Paper – which should be published urgently – is welcome, but it’s unclear exactly what the government wants to level up, how much its strategy will cost, how long it will take, and how it plans to achieve its goals.
“The strategy will require a major change of direction if it’s to achieve its admirable ambition for people in ‘left-behind areas’ to have the same opportunities as elsewhere in the country.”