Yesterday we were delighted to host Andy Haldane, Cllr Abi Brown and Professor Richard Jones to discuss ‘Levelling Up: From Theory to Practice.’ If you missed the event, you can watch it back here.

In the media this week

Another Brick in the Wall, our major new study on the future of the UK’s electoral landscape, continues to be covered in the media. It was reported in Politics Home, Birmingham Mail, politics.uk and The Week.

Last Friday, we sent a letter to the Chancellor urging the Government to level up pensions and expand auto-enrolment. The letter was backed by nine major pensions firms and followed our report, Levelling Up Pensions. It was covered by City AM, FT Adviser, Pensions Expert, Pensions Age Magazine, and Investment and Pensions Europe.

Our report Time to Move Out, co-authored by Will Tanner and Adam Hawksbee, was the most read report in February according to Smart Thinking.

Deputy Director Adam Hawksbee will be speaking at the South Yorkshire Economic Summit tomorrow, on a panel discussing how we can foster the conditions that will underpin a dynamic, thriving and purposeful economy. Find out how you can be involved and explore the full agenda here.

We are hiring!

Onward is looking for two exceptional candidates to join our six-month paid internship programme. The role will expose the successful candidates to all aspects of Onward’s work: you will contribute to our research programmes, help organise events with frontline politicians and world-leading experts, and support media campaigns. Please visit our website for details on how to apply.

Onward Note

The ink is not yet dry on the Levelling Up White Paper but already it feels like its publication was a lifetime ago. In the month since it was published, politics has been engulfed by the twin challenges of rising costs of living and the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. Events matter in politics. But so do promises made to voters. The challenge is to balance the immediate pressures of politics with the longer term changes ministers want to pursue.  

adam hawksbee

In an event yesterday, Onward posed the question of how we can ensure the White Paper successfully makes the transition from theory to practice. Andy Haldane, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office responsible for Levelling Up, told us that it meant rapid reforms in both government and governance.

On government – Andy spoke in detail about practical changes to the Whitehall machine. ‘Spatial awareness’ would improve, with clear breakdowns of the impact of policies in different parts of the country. Spending would be better distributed, with R&D and culture spending highlighted as early examples of this shift occurring. New Levelling Up Directors would bring together different departments in places outside London, ensuring a truly joined up approach.

But Andy was clear that changes in governance – how different partners are supported to work together across the country – were more important. Proposals on devolution would provide empowered local leadership to nine million more people, through County Deals and more Mayoral Combined Authorities. Business leaders could take a more active role through Innovation Accelerator pilots and plans to turn 40 industrial strengths into ‘super clusters’. And communities would be empowered through ‘double devolution’.

Any one of these changes alone would be a stretch for our institutions – but the Levelling Up programme asks them to occur simultaneously. On top of a cost of living crisis. And a major conflict within Europe’s borders. This will, to say the least, be a formidable challenge.

Hope comes from the other speakers at our event. Richard Jones from the University of Manchester highlighted how they were already working more closely with their city region, forming a ‘Civic University Agreement’ with other institutions. And Cllr Abi Jones, the Leader of Stoke-On-Trent, made clear that she didn’t need government approval to crack on with her plan for her area – she just needed some enabling funding in areas like transport and public health.

Battling through the strong headwinds facing the Levelling Up agenda means harnessing partnerships like these and doing more out of Whitehall. Ultimately, it’s strength in numbers and devolved delivery that will ensure this agenda succeeds.

Adam Hawksbee, Deputy Director and Head of Levelling Up at Onward

Policy Bites

The Department for Transport has announced a package of over £150 million to safeguard local transport services as millions of passengers return to the network after the pandemic. Link

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has launched a £288 million Green Heat Network Fund to finance low-carbon technologies to promote the use of a single energy source to power multiple properties and businesses. Link

£200 million has been committed to support NHS-led health research into diagnostics and treatment, and £60 million has been dedicated to help expand life sciences manufacturing in the UK. Link

Quick Links

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