2022 was another tumultuous year for the North, and for levelling up. Severe regional inequalities endure despite government claiming it remains committed to the levelling up agenda.

The government’s levelling up white paper proposed a welcome path for further devolution, but it fell short of a real shift of power to local government or communities. The white paper and subsequent policy developments fail to unlock the essential government resources required to level up. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis combined with public spending levels in the coming years mean that levelling up is now on life support.

The UK continues to stand out internationally for the wrong reason: because it is the most regionally unbalanced large, advanced economy. Our latest analysis highlights continued and growing regional divides in productivity, incomes, job creation, unemployment, pollution, emissions, and educational outcomes. The North is too often at the sharp end of these inequalities.

Looking at our place in the world, such inequality is not inevitable. The research in this reports draws from international experience to demonstrate how empowering local places to level up is key to success, including:

  • levelling up through industry and investment in Leipzig, Germany
  • levelling up through local transport investment in the Ibaraki region, Japan
  • levelling up through cultural regeneration in Bilbao, Spain
  • levelling up through the net zero transition in the town of Luleå, Sweden
  • and levelling up through local skills innovation in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Reducing the UK’s regional divides would unlock national growth and deliver better lives for everyone across the country.