Levelling Up

Levelling Up White Paper 2022

An online seminar to discuss the implications of the levelling up white paper on our region was held on 17th March.  We were joined by Akash Paun and Alex Nice from the Institute for Government think tank and over 50 participants from across the region. ‘The white paper is ambitious on devolution’ explained Akash ‘and this is welcome but it remains to be seen how this will be turned into action.’ We were also joined by senior council leaders including Keith Mans, Hampshire, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth, and Drew Mellor, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, with business leaders including Brian Johnson (Solent Freeport) who shared their initial reactions to this long and complex paper. 

Overall, there was a sense of optimism about what can be achieved. In summing up, SPC director John Denham noted a consensus that the potential for a deal in the central South is real but that some decisions, such as whether we should have an elected mayor, are yet to be made.  Look out for the publication of our blog outlining the key discussion points from the seminar. Slides and data on the white paper mission targets are available together with John’s presentation by clicking on the links below.

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

This new report from Southern Policy Centre was launched on July 30th 2021 and 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.

At the launch seminar we will hear presentations from the author of the report and SPC Director Dr Simon Eden.  Councillor Dan Fitzhenry, leader of Southampton City Council will comment and Chris Ashman, Director of Isle of Wight Council will make a short presentation on ‘The Solent Narrative.’ This report, which is the result of a collaboration between local authorities and partners in the Solent region looks at the shared challenges it faces within those communities left behind, the sectors damaged by Covid-19 and how to make the most of the opportunity the government’s Levelling up Fund offers. A copy of the report can be downloaded via the button below.


Finally, SPC Director Prof John Denham will present a new report on cooperation and collaboration in the central South.  We invited senior political leaders and officers to discuss the potential gains, and possible pitfalls, of regional collaboration in general and potential devolution in particular. Given the government’s promise of further reforms to health and social care we included a focus on this central question of how best to organise the delivery of health and social care. This report summarises the main insights we learned from our interviewees. A copy of the report can be downloaded via the button below.


All three reports can be read in full online or downloaded to read at your convenience.  If you have any questions, comments or ideas for further research please contact Ruth Eastwood, SPC General Manager ruth.eastwood@southernpolicycentre.co.uk

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