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Lack of clear objectives, flip-flopping on policy and undue political influence in the government's levelling up agenda are set to hinder rather than help communities most in need of support, says a new report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) today.
Addressing regional inequalities in the UK: levelling to where?, outlines the economic context for levelling up, the funding structure in place to support it, and CIPFA's recommendations to address its limitations.
A key observation in the report highlights the lack of continuity between levelling up and the most recent industrial strategy.
Jeffrey Matsu, CIPFA Chief Economist, said: "Levelling up, net zero and a vision for global Britain were already being addressed by the industrial strategy's four grand challenges and ten sector deals. Why not build on this approach rather than restart?
"The government's compulsive desire to put its own stamp on policy initiatives that already have nearly four years of momentum serves only to reinvent the wheel, uproot effort and create more uncertainty at a time when economic recovery would benefit most from stability."
The report also addresses the inherently problematic nature of competitive bidding, as well as the level of political influence embedded into deciding what projects are taken forwards.
The current bidding process places considerable strain on the resources of local authorities, which can in some cases result in the allocation of funds being based on the ability of an organisation to bid rather than their established need. At the same time, the Prime Minister has attributed election success in Labour strongholds in part to levelling up.
Joanne Pitt, CIPFA Local Government Policy Manager, said: "Levelling up funding cannot be used as a way of influencing voters to the detriment of good decision making. Areas most in need of funding should be supported and allowed to engage with this national policy based on sound economic judgment rather than a ballot paper."
"Funding decisions must be independent of political influence, with increased transparency around criteria selection and funding awards."
Notes to editor
CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA shows the way in public finance globally, standing up for sound public financial management and good governance around the world as the leading commentator on managing and accounting for public money.