New evidence that the government’s answer to the question whether levelling up is about people or places is ‘places’ came today from Andy Haldane, head of the Levelling Up Task Force.
This website first asked on September 21 whether levelling up policy was about helping people in need wherever in the country they may be or about raising specific places, like the North East, which have been lagging economically and in other ways for decades – a spatial policy.
At an online event today Haldane, former chief economist at the Bank of England and now on secondment to the Department for Levelling Up from his current post as chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, seemed to suggest that it is at least primarily about places.
According to a report in Northern Agenda, Haldane told the launch of Levelling Up with Open Data that the highly imperfect nature of the regional and local data available meant that on the vital topic of where in the country the government spends its money, policy-makers and the public were currently largely in the dark.
In some areas, said Haldane, we simply currently do not have as good a picture as we would need to understand where government is spending its money and where its activity is concentrated and that needs plainly to change. ‘You cannot run an effective spatial policy if you don’t have effective spatial data on how your money currently is being spent.’ Why this matters, said Haldane, ’is that the UK is one of the most spatially unequal countries among any advanced economy.
‘Those spatial differences have been widening over the course of the last at least 50 years to the point where those differences are back to the levels last seen in late Victorian times more than a century ago.’
He told the event that the country’s problems have been compounded by the lack of an effective spatial strategy.
But in a remark that could be seen as meaning that the government’s aim is to benefit the whole country as well as targeted areas, Haldane also said: ‘Getting it right would mean not just “robbing London to pay Liverpool” but unlocking the potential that exists right across the UK, giving the economy a boost worth tens of billions of pounds’.