Andy Haldane on Levelling Up
In a conversation hosted by Centre for London with the Policy Institute at King’s College London, the RSA Chief Executive said development at the hyper-local level would “expand the economic pie” for everyone.
London, 29 June 2022 – RSA Chief Executive Andrew Haldane joined Centre for London at Bush House, King’s College London this morning for a conversation about what levelling up means for London. “Levelling up is a national economic plan but led locally, rather than centrally”, he said.
Prof Haldane is Chair of the government’s Levelling Up Advisory Council and previously served as Head of the Levelling Up Taskforce, working closely with Michael Gove on the Levelling Up White Paper. Prof Haldane was joined by Dr Linda Yueh, Fellow of St Edmund Hall in Oxford University, Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, and Claire Harding, Research Director at Centre for London.
The event was part of a year-long programme at Centre for London looking at what levelling up means for London. Prof Haldane joined Centre for London staff and senior figures from across London to talk about high housing costs, funding cuts and the impact on transport services, public services, and local authority spending.
Ms Harding, Research Director at Centre for London, presented the think tank’s findings from Phase 1 of the project. While Centre for London supports the aims of the Government’s levelling up agenda, she expressed concern that it has so far focussed on ameliorating geographic inequality without acknowledging the challenges within London.
Centre for London’s Phase 1 Report on ‘Challenges for London and Londoners’ finds that London’s levelling up interests are largely aligned with the rest of the country’s. Creating more job opportunities and more types of jobs across the whole of the UK is in London’s interest; an economy that is over-reliant on economic activity concentrated in London drives up prices, makes the city more difficult to live in for lower-income Londoners, and under-utilises the talents of people living outside of London.
However, while London faces different challenges to the rest of the country, addressing its problems is no less important. While ‘London’ is often used as a shorthand for the government, the financial sector, or elites, the capital is in fact home to some of the most deprived communities in England – 27 per cent of Londoners live in poverty, and child poverty rates are the highest in England at nearly 40 per cent.
Prof Haldane agreed with Centre for London’s assessment that London has unique, hyper-local levelling up challenges. “There are more people in poverty in London than in the rest of the UK,” he said. “Even in the places that are doing well, there are problems of overpricing and congested transport. There’s a reason that despite being by a country mile top of the productivity league table, London is bottom of the wellbeing and happiness table. Levelling up is every bit as much about levelling up wellbeing and tackling poverty and deprivation in London as it is about levelling up productivity across the country.”
Though the Government’s levelling up agenda remains in its early stages, there are already warning signs of funds being diverted away from London. Affordable housebuilding, local government funding allocations, and Transport for London may also be at risk. London-based organisations have a unique opportunity to make the case that levelling up is not a zero-sum game. The UK is most likely to see strong, equitable economic growth by bringing together the talents and contributions of every part of the country, rather than setting towns and cities against each other.
London businesses currently contribute more in tax to the Treasury than the city receives in spending. Divisive rhetoric about London and cuts to funding in the city risk material damages to the city’s economy, and by extension to the economy in the rest of the UK.
Cllr Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said:
“The capital’s stark inequalities and the vast number of Londoners struggling through the cost-of-living crisis show why we desperately need levelling up policies that work for London.
“With one in four Londoners living in poverty, boroughs provide a vital local safety net for those in need – but severe pressures on council finances make it harder and harder for us to keep offering the levels of support we want to.
“Investing in boroughs’ local services will pay dividends by helping London make faster progress towards the levelling up ambitions.
“We’re determined to work with the government in building a fairer and more prosperous London. From tackling homelessness and poverty through to leading inclusive regeneration projects and promoting public health, boroughs can play a key role in applying the levelling up agenda to the capital.”
Chris Hayward, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said:
“London is an important engine for the economy and we need to keep it running effectively if we are to maximise its contribution for the rest of the UK. The capital faces unique challenges and still has major inequalities, with 2.5 million people currently living in poverty, so levelling up must not lead to a levelling down of London and the South East.
“Through the City Corporation’s UK partnerships strategy, we are seeking to play our part in the levelling up agenda by attracting inward investment to UK regions and building awareness of how London can act as a springboard for regional firms to export their products and services globally.”
Centre for London’s year-long programme of work on levelling up also includes a Phase 2 report on London’s contributions to levelling up, expected in November 2022, and focus groups to help articulate London’s challenges and its relationship to the rest of the UK. The think tank has also produced borough-level data sheets on levelling up challenges in London: find them at https://www.centreforlondon.
You can re-watch today’s event on Centre for London’s YouTube channel.