Addressing regional inequalities

Investing in regional equality – lessons from four cities

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"Unfortunately, there is no simple or quick fix to resolve some of the world's most pressing issues – like eradicating poverty, tackling climate change or improving access to healthcare and education. But we should still try."

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA Chief Executive, in the foreword of Investing in regional equality – lessons from four cities, February 2022 

Inequality stops nations from improving the lives of all their citizens. Countries cannot grow and move forward if they leave people behind — this is why overcoming social and economic inequality is so important. Yet it is everywhere, existing between people, cities and regions, across borders, and between countries. In the UK, the idea of inequality most often centres on the north-south divide.

Governments around the world have been developing policies to tackle inequality in their own populations. However, it's a highly complex problem, and there is no one single answer to solving it. In 2021, CIPFA and the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI) at the University of Birmingham began exploring what cities have been doing to reduce inequality, and which methods have proven most effective.

We looked at Leipzig in Germany, Cleveland in the United States, Nantes in France, and Fukuoka in Japan. Within these city-regions, we worked with local organisations to understand the initiatives and strategies which were being used to overcome inequality and provide opportunities.

The results of this investigation can be found in our report Investing in regional equality – lessons from four cities, published in February 2022. Its findings are intended to assess what "levelling up" looks like in a broad context, while providing evidence-based guidance so future government policies can be as impactful and targeted as possible.

Key highlights

  • Reducing inequality is complex and there is no one simple fix; it requires a long-term, multi-faceted approach, with significant levels of funding to be most successful.
  • Within all the cities studied, there were key players that enabled growth – such as a charitable foundation, a charismatic mayor or a strong community programme.
  • A clear vision and well-defined strategy for what the city should look like and how it should feel to live in are essential for successfully reducing inequality.
  • Political will, commitment and support across geographical scales is vital in making change happen.
  • Public sector institutions and finance professionals have a key role to play in measuring outcomes, ensuring value for money and building effective relationships with other national organisations.

Explore the key highlights

Find out more

The team, along with their regional collaborators, discussed the report in a webinar on 3 March 2022. Watch the video.

Infrastructure report

Investing in infrastructure – enabling fairer growth builds on the previous report and considers six infrastructure projects in different countries that have delivered meaningful local results.

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Metrics report

To complement the main report, there is also a separate metrics report. This details the methods and processes used in the main report to measure the effectiveness of policies designed to address inequality.

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Managing public finance to achieve fairer outcomes

Good public financial management is vital in addressing regional inequality. This report examines how a whole systems approach mobilises financial resources that enable public sector goals, such as overcoming social and economic inequalities.

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Contact us

For more information, contact the CIPFA press office, or Jeffrey Matsu, the report's co-author: jeffrey.matsu@cipfa.org