The levelling up agenda has made little progress since its inception in 2019.

Yet abandoning its programme of reform risks returning us to a status quo characterised by over-centralisation and top-down control, that served the country so poorly and paved the way to wide regional divides in the first place.

Against this background, this paper critically assesses the unfinished governance processes of levelling up, challenging the traditional orthodoxy of territorial government in the UK.

We call for a culture of governance that rests on the logic of caring for place, that recognises that participation and a reinvigorated local government go hand in hand, and that supports the work of ‘connectors’ across places and the culture of problem-solving, both within communities and between all tiers of government.

This provocation paper has been commissioned by IPPR and IPPR North as part of its progressive levelling up project. As part of this work, we are convening external thinkers, engaging with members of the public and generating novel policy ideas. Taken together, this work will help design a blueprint to rebalance power, wealth, and opportunity between and within our regions.