The British Chambers of Commerce has welcomed the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper as the first step to putting local economic prosperity at the heart of Government.
But BCC Director General Shevaun Haviland said the Government must quickly follow-up with real actions, turning ambitions in the paper into reality and improving prosperity around the country.
She said: “We are pleased to see policies the Chamber Network has long campaigned for – such as UK-wide infrastructure reaching London standards, widespread 5G internet, local skills planning and devolution of funding decisions to the local level – take real significance and be enshrined in law.
“What must now follow is the detail on the role local business leaders will have in oversight and delivery of the missions laid out. Where necessary, additional funding must be made available in order to drive change. Government must not forget the role that local businesses play in creating opportunity and prosperity in their communities, and should continue to work with British Chambers of Commerce and others to identify further ways to improve the business environment and enable more firms to grow and thrive.”
The success of the “levelling up” agenda will be tested against 12 key targets to be achieved by 2030:
- Pay, employment and productivity will have risen in all parts of the UK, with each area containing a “globally competitive” city
- Domestic public investment in research and development outside the “greater South East” of England will increase by at least 40%
- Local public transport across the country will be “significantly closer” to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing
- The UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population
- Some 90% of primary school children in England will have achieved the expected standards in reading, writing and maths, with the percentage meeting those aims in the worst-performing areas to have increased by a third
- Some 200,000 more people in England will complete “high quality skills training” annually, including 80,000 in the lowest-skilled parts of the country
- The gap in healthy life expectancy (HLE) between the highest and lowest areas will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years
- There will be improved “well-being” in all parts of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and lowest performing areas closing
- All parts of the UK will have improved “pride in place”, assessed by measures such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community
- People renting their homes will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas. The number of “non-decent” rented homes will have fallen by 50%
- Murder, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas
Ms Haviland added: “Chamber business communities across England support greater devolution. The centralisation of money and decision making in Whitehall continues to be a brake on cities, towns and counties that are keen to realise their potential. However, businesses only want to see devolution with purpose – not just devolution for its own sake.
“Devolution must be shaped by business knowledge of local and regional needs and be accountable to local businesses and communities. It is vital that time and energy spent on structural changes results in the acceleration of genuine uplifts to prosperity in our regions and nations.
“Government has heeded our calls to streamline the variety of funding pots and will be taking a more strategic approach to funding. Accredited Chambers would like to see local areas receive larger funds to use within a strategic framework and given greater autonomy to use it to address areas of greatest challenge or opportunity in their local communities over the long term.”