The promise of the Levelling Up agenda to regenerate and rejuvenate neglected communities, and to restore pride, purpose and prosperity to the UK’s former industrial heartlands, is a crucial opportunity to restore trust in, and support for, British democracy.
Through polling more than 4,000 Britons and focus groups with dozens of members of the British Seven segments, our new briefing paper ‘Everyday Levelling Up: Britons’ expectations and howe to meet them’ shows the public’s clear expectations for the policy agenda – and how it can be delivered to meet those expectations.
Our research suggests that the next General Election will be the levelling up election – more than half of Britons say it will be a top issue in deciding who they vote for at the next election – and for the segment who swung most strongly to the Conservatives in 2019 even more people say it will be crucial in deciding their vote – with seven in ten Loyal Nationals placing it as a top issue in weighing up which party to support.
While public expectations for the agenda are high, people are also realistic about the time it will take to tackle deep rooted problems in their communities. But they also want to see action in the short term. The Government’s whitepaper and the Labour Party’s plan for community regeneration, need to avoid focusing on the things far too often dominate the policy, political and media conversation on levelling up.
‘Everyday Levelling Up’ warns against a misplaced focus on shiny devolution deals and complex success metrics which do not feature on the public’s priorities. And instead calls for a laser-like focus on improving people’s every day in their own communities – a focus on the hyper-local over the big infrastructure project – which delivers better investment in parks and safe places for children and young people, support for struggling high streets and a clear plan to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour to make Britons feel safer in their communities.
You can see money's been poured into the big parks like Hanley and stuff, but just not in the little ones. I just think it's a shame because that's where lots of people can actually get to.
I'd say Blackpool's got a lot worse, a lot worse. The town centre is horrific. There's no businesses there any more, there's no choice...unless you’re a poundshop, plenty of pound shops!
What’s the point in making the area look nice if it’s just going to end up getting vandalised in a couple of months.
The improvements that Britons want to see and feel in their everyday lives are clear. What is equally clear is the belief that the people best placed to decide on those improvements are those who spend their daily lives in the communities. Britons from across our seven segments believe local government, mayors and ordinary local people are best placed to make good decisions on local regeneration.
The stakes for levelling up couldn’t be higher. With a cost-of-living crisis starting to bite and pandemic fatigue wearing thin, politicians of all stripes need to show that democracy can and does deliver for local people.