Over the last few days there have been a number of references to the context of levelling up but based on the information I have seen there was no explanation of what it relates to. However the phrase in the context of the Government follows on from their commitment that was announced in the Queen’s Speech to introduce a Levelling Up White Paper later this year. The White Paper apparently is intended to present an opportunity to reset the relationship between central and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country. There is a piece in the Local Government Association which can be seen here and the document which has been written by Amy Fleming who works for the LGA includes these two bullet points
- The LGA supports the findings of the Devolution APPG inquiry into ‘Levelling Up Devo’, which recommended that the White Paper should rethink the recent top down devolution process to set out a new English devolution baseline for our communities, accompanied by a sustainable funding settlement.
- The LGA welcomes the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund and the fact that councils have been placed at the heart of the delivery of the Fund. We look forward to working with government on the detail but are concerned by the prospect of competitive bidding processes at a time when councils want to be fully focused on protecting communities and businesses from the impact of the pandemic.
My understanding is that the white paper has not yet been published but while this may not have been the subject that was interpreted by the statement from Gove and indeed the words from Johnson I would welcome this concept providing of course the way in which Devolution is connected to the people in the regions. There is a very clear need for a Sussex wide region to be set out but unfortunately there has been no indication of what that will look like and indeed the Councils in Sussex have focused on Sussex and Surrey or Brighton and Hove and the Districts around that City. However the population of Brighton and Hove and Lewes and Worthing and Adur is not large enough for a devolution setting. There has not been a call for Sussex wide region to be established and yet that seems to me to be much more effective in many senses. Particularly as Surrey is seeking a devolution approach on its own. If we were to have a Sussex wide Devolution we could call for a meaningful Proportional Representation process for Sussex in the same way as it exists in London and indeed in a number of other locations.