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LEVELLING UP

Levelling Up Locally

A guide for local leaders to level up their communities
Adam Hawksbee, Shivani H Menon
February 7, 2023
Levelling Up Locally

“Antisocial behaviour should be a top priority in levelling up local areas. Without people feeling safe on the streets, efforts to boost economic growth and unlock opportunity will be wasted. Our new report provides a practical guide to leaders looking to tackle low-level crime, and deal with the other common challenges we found.”

 

Levelling Up is a national mission. But much of the energy, insight and levers to make change are local. Onward’s Levelling Up In Practice programme brings together research from places across the country to understand common challenges and identify practical, low-cost interventions that can kickstart progress. Levelling Up Locally is our final report, based on five research visits:

Oldham – how antisocial behaviour limits levelling up

South Shields – building bridges between industrial past and future

Walsall – hyper-local challenges at the neighbourhood level

Clacton – the generational and geographical coastal poverty trap

Barry – a working-class town well on the way to levelling up

 

Lessons from Levelling Up Locally

Our conversations across the country identified five common challenges. These issues are consistently raised by the public, observable in the data, and stubbornly persist over time:

  1. Tackling antisocial behaviour, particularly among young people
  2. Bringing life back to high streets and town centres
  3. Supporting local sport, culture, heritage and green space
  4. Boosting local growth in the private sector
  5. Providing community-based support to the most disadvantaged

 

In every area, these common challenges had particular characteristics and were a blocker to levelling up to differing degrees. For example, in Oldham, high levels of antisocial behaviour on public transport have restricted connectivity and hollowed out the town centre. In South Tyneside, extreme health inequalities drove economic inactivity and held back industry while community assets remained untapped.

And in some of the areas we visited, these five common challenges even varied between different neighbourhoods. In Clacton, poverty was concentrated in clusters of streets with poor housing stock and among elderly residents with little familial support, placing high pressure on public services. In Walsall, the drivers of economic inactivity varied from ward to ward between low levels of formal skills, chronic health conditions, ageing workers, and cultural norms in South Asian communities.

These two factors – variation in the most pressing barriers to progress between areas and the presence of hyper-local challenges within areas – point to the need to tackle these challenges locally. We need to level up from the bottom up. 

Using data to understand challenges

Playbook of interventions

The report recommends a data diagnostic approach that local leaders can adopt in their place to understand which of these common challenges are most pressing. Blackpool is used as an example, illustrating the maps and graphs that can help to direct action. The appendix includes a data manual to allow local leaders to recreate the analysis for their area using commonly available tools.

Recommendations for tackling antisocial behaviour

  • Local leaders can collectively identify antisocial behaviour hot spots and focus their resources on solving underlying problems in those areas
  • Local leaders can prioritise safety on buses, trams, and trains, as well as public transport stops and stations
  • Local leaders can support programmes that divert young people away from antisocial behaviour, including sports, after-school clubs, and mentoring

 

Recommendations revitalising high streets and town centres

  • Councils can issue letters notifying landlords of long-term vacant properties of their intention to trigger a High Street Rental Auction
  • Councils can tackle eyesore and derelict buildings through Section 215 notices
  • Local leaders can increase collective capacity to improve the public realm through the formation of parish and town councils, Business
  • Improvement Districts, and Community Improvement Districts
  • Councils can support the transfer of assets to community ownership
  • Local leaders can create thriving town markets

 

Recommendations supporting local sport, culture, heritage and green space

  • Local leaders can create Heritage Development Trusts and councils can designate Heritage Action Zones to protect and improve access to heritage assets
  • Local leaders can ensure the sustainability of local sports clubs
  • Local leaders can create diaspora networks as a way to both boost pride of place and increase philanthropic investment
  • Councils can support programmes to animate the public realm through culture and art
  • Local leaders can support the creation of “pocket parks” in urban areas

 

Recommendations for boosting local growth in the private sector

  • Local leaders can develop a hyper-local industrial strategy
  • Local leaders can provide targeted business support and advice to tradeable firms with high growth potential
  • Local leaders can create new partnerships between businesses, schools, colleges, and universities to boost employment
  • Local leaders can increase the supply of employment land by creating Mayoral and Locally Led Development Corporations
  • Local leaders can introduce Demand Responsive Transit schemes to boost physical connectivity

 

Providing community-based support to the most disadvantaged

  • Local leaders can create and support networks that build relationships between vulnerable groups like the long-term unemployed
  • Local leaders can launch community public health campaigns to increase well-being
  • Local authorities can create and expand Family Hubs in their areas
  • Local leaders can introduce new forms of community engagement to develop and improve services

Using data to understand challenges

The report recommends a data diagnostic approach that local leaders can adopt in their place to understand which of these common challenges are most pressing. Blackpool is used as an example, illustrating the maps and graphs that can help to direct action. The appendix includes a data manual to allow local leaders to recreate the analysis for their area using commonly available tools.

Playbook of interventions

Recommendations for tackling antisocial behaviour

  • Local leaders can collectively identify antisocial behaviour hot spots and focus their resources on solving underlying problems in those areas
  • Local leaders can prioritise safety on buses, trams, and trains, as well as public transport stops and stations
  • Local leaders can support programmes that divert young people away from antisocial behaviour, including sports, after-school clubs, and mentoring

 

Recommendations revitalising high streets and town centres

  • Councils can issue letters notifying landlords of long-term vacant properties of their intention to trigger a High Street Rental Auction
  • Councils can tackle eyesore and derelict buildings through Section 215 notices
  • Local leaders can increase collective capacity to improve the public realm through the formation of parish and town councils, Business
  • Improvement Districts, and Community Improvement Districts
  • Councils can support the transfer of assets to community ownership
  • Local leaders can create thriving town markets

 

Recommendations supporting local sport, culture, heritage and green space

  • Local leaders can create Heritage Development Trusts and councils can designate Heritage Action Zones to protect and improve access to heritage assets
  • Local leaders can ensure the sustainability of local sports clubs
  • Local leaders can create diaspora networks as a way to both boost pride of place and increase philanthropic investment
  • Councils can support programmes to animate the public realm through culture and art
  • Local leaders can support the creation of “pocket parks” in urban areas

 

Recommendations for boosting local growth in the private sector

  • Local leaders can develop a hyper-local industrial strategy
  • Local leaders can provide targeted business support and advice to tradeable firms with high growth potential
  • Local leaders can create new partnerships between businesses, schools, colleges, and universities to boost employment
  • Local leaders can increase the supply of employment land by creating Mayoral and Locally Led Development Corporations
  • Local leaders can introduce Demand Responsive Transit schemes to boost physical connectivity

 

Providing community-based support to the most disadvantaged

  • Local leaders can create and support networks that build relationships between vulnerable groups like the long-term unemployed
  • Local leaders can launch community public health campaigns to increase well-being
  • Local authorities can create and expand Family Hubs in their areas
  • Local leaders can introduce new forms of community engagement to develop and improve services

 

About The Levelling Up programme:

Levelling Up in Practice

Reducing economic disparities between places. 

Our work on the UK’s regional disparities has been the engine behind the levelling up agenda. This programme focuses on bridging the UK’s longstanding spatial inequalities and bringing economic opportunity to places which have lagged behind for too long.

The authors would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the thinking and analysis within this report. Their advice is invaluable, and any mistakes are, of course, the author’s own. We are also grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for supporting this project and the interim reports we have published as a part of the Levelling Up in Practice programme.

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