Levelling up: making the case for investment in the central South

This new report from Southern Policy Centre asks whether the central South risks losing out to areas in the Midlands and the North in the Government’s Levelling Up agenda. There is a widely held assumption that all areas in the supposedly affluent South East experience the positive effects of prosperity but SPC research suggests that some areas of the population experience poor life chances similar to those found in certain areas of the Midlands and North.

 

 

The report compares economic and social performance in key localities in the central South (South Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole area), with selected areas of the Midlands and North, and makes a strong case for investment in ‘levelling up’ within the region by identifying areas that have been ‘left-behind’ and not fully benefited from the success of the wider regional economies.

The research suggests that regions do not appear to be as different as the ‘levelling up’ agenda would suggest and there is no geographical pattern to deprivation, poverty, educational achievement, employment, and social mobility. Significant differences exist within the central South and even in relatively more prosperous areas such as the New Forest some children, young people and adults experience poor outcomes in terms of social mobility. The worst circumstances of all are those of residents living in deprived neighbourhoods within affluent areas as they have less access to opportunities to improve their lives and often receive the least attention when their need is greatest.

SPC Director Simon Eden says “Levelling up is a key objective for our Government. With a White Paper promised for this autumn, it’s vital that policies and programmes designed to provide equality of funding and opportunity are not just aimed at regions outside London and the South East. Our research helps makes the case for an approach which supports learning, skills and social mobility in the central South alongside the towns and cities of the Midlands and North of England cited by Minsters as in need of levelling up.”

The report concludes that a deeper understanding of the causes of disadvantage within the central South are essential but strong local leadership and collaboration between educational establishments, business and health providers backed by Government support are needed to move forward. Nuanced, place-specific solutions should be implemented including a focus on affordable housing and a plan to ensure the designation of the Solent as a Freeport results in the kind of investment and regeneration that helps the most disadvantaged communities to benefit.