Levelling Up: insights from The Productivity Institute
One of the keys to Levelling Up the different regions of the UK economy will be to understand why productivity varies to a greater degree across the UK regions than it does in the sub-national regions of other OECD countries.
The Productivity Institute’s UK-wide focus, through its eight Regional Productivity Forums and institutional partners, is rooted in the awareness of the need for interdisciplinary research that can offer policy-relevant and practical proposals for raising productivity and economic performance in different types of firms and in different regions, as well as in the UK as a whole.
Our work in this area also been recognised by the Academy of Social Sciences in their recent policy report The Place to Be: How social sciences are helping to improve places in the UK .
We’ve collated our “Levelling Up” related insights below, written before and after the government’s Levelling Up white paper was released on 2 February 2022. The White Paper itself has four references to the work of TPI’s Research Director Tony Venables – his insights into regional disparities can be found on this TPI blog, which also refences the cited research.
Insights from TPI academics about the Levelling Up White Paper
- Nigel Driffield contributed to The Conversation article Levelling up: four problems with Boris Johnson’s flagship project 04.02.22
- David Richards and Diane Coyle contributed to The Conversation article Whitehall’s centralised system can’t deliver Boris Johnson’s promises to ‘level up’ 04.02.22
- Kieron Flanagan wrote a blog for the Alliance Manchester Business School A mission to level up the UK 04.02.22
- Andy Westwood has written an opinion piece for Research Professional News Balancing the books 06.02.22
- Andy Westwood was quoted in the Manchester Evening news article For Boris Johnson, it is a slogan – for others, it is life and death: The puzzle of ‘levelling up’
- Adrian Pabst was quoted in The Telegraph article Lack of cash for levelling-up drive threatens another false dawn 07.02.22
- Adrian Pabst wrote an article for Prospect Magazine Productivity is key to “levelling up”07.02.22
- Adrian Pabst wrote about persistent policy failures in an article for Critic Magazine Doubling down, not levelling up: Why Gove’s plan is dead on arrival 07.02.22
- Diane Coyle and Adam Muhtar wrote a blog for Bennett Institute of Public Policy at Cambridge University Levelling Up for the long term 07.02.22
- Philip McCann was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week discussing how the Georgians’ move towards centralisation sowed the seeds for today’s regional inequalities on The Georgians
- Jagjit Chadha was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room discussing Will the levelling up plans work? 10.02.22
Levelling Up and Productivity: The Role of Industrial Policy, Institutions and Fiscal Mechanisms
In Episode 11 of our Productivity Puzzles podcast series, host Bart van Ark, Managing Director of The Productivity Institute, talks with three of our thematic leads – Professors Diane Coyle, Andy Westwood and Philip McCann – to discuss their recent research relating to Levelling Up in relation to UK industrial policy, local growth and fiscal implications of governance devolution. Links to the three papers discussed can be found below. Released 12.01.22.
Levelling Up, Local Growth and Productivity in England
Lead Author: Andrew Westwood, Professor of Government Practice at The University of Manchester and the Institutions and governance research theme co-lead at The Productivity Institute. Published 01.12.21
What role do the existing institutions and governance structures in tackling spatial inequality and low productivity in England? This paper focuses how to best tackle low productivity and reduced regional inequalities, with three policy recommendations: a long-term institutional framework with more stability and co-ordination between institutions; clear devolution and decentralisation strategy with enhanced powers and resources at the city region and local levels.; and a clear, long-term strategy to improve productivity and economic growth.
Professor Westwood discussed this research with Professor Bart van Ark in December 2021, focusing on how institutional reforms and governance across the UK fits in to the Levelling Up debate. You can watch an edited recording on YouTube.
- In January 2022, Professor Westwood wrote a TPI blog English Mayors aren’t Metro Medicis. Yet. where he examined how the Medici family of Renaissance Florence is including thinking around the Levelling Up agenda.
- In June 2021, Professor Westwood wrote a TPI blog Institutions, Governance and the politics of Levelling Up where he examined the definitions of the UK’s decision making bodies.
The fiscal implication of Levelling Up and UK governance devolution
There is currently widespread enthusiasm for devolution and decentralisation as part of a broader Levelling Up agenda. However, this needs to be undertaken very carefully because if poorly implemented, it could easily worsen the already-high interregional imbalances. What reforms to the UK’s interregional fiscal system will be needed to help deliver this agenda?
UK’s Industrial Policy: Learning from the past?
The UK’s industrial policy since the 1970s has been characterised by frequent policy reversals and announcements, driven by political cycles, while multiple uncoordinated public bodies, departments and levels of government are responsible for delivery. This paper explores the impacts of these deficiencies of the industrial policymaking landscape in the UK and contrasts them with the experiences of other advanced economies.
Identifying Industrial Renewal Paths of Places for Levelling Up
Enrico Vanino (University of Sheffield) wrote a blog presenting the key findings from a report on Identifying Places Industrial Renewal Paths in the UK and the underlying data dashboard, developed during his academic secondment at the Cities and Local Growth Analysis Unit in BEIS funded by ESRC. Published 25.01.22.
Levelling Up and the Northern Powerhouse
In Episode 4 of our podcast series, Productivity Puzzles, host Professor Bart van Ark talks to Lord Jim O’Neill, Dame Nancy Rothwell & Professor Philip McCann about raising productivity in the Northern Powerhouse, a powerful concept introduced more than five years ago with the aim to rebuild a competitive economy in northern England. Our guests have been there from the start and discuss what it’s delivered so far, its challenges, future directions and how it contributes to the government’s “Levelling Up” agenda. Released 23.06.21.