Measuring up for levelling up


This report from UK think tank Onward looks at what are we trying to achieve by “levelling up” and what does the data say.

The map of British politics has been transformed. The seats gained by the Conservative party in 2019, many for the first time, are quite different to seats the party has traditionally held. Seats gained by the Conservatives in 2019 don’t just have lower earnings than the seats the party already held, but earnings 5% lower than seats held by Labour. Of the bottom quarter of seats in Great Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by the Conservatives than Labour. The seats the party gained in 2019 had lower employment rates than Labour-held seats, and higher unemployment rates. Compared to the Conservative gains, homes in seats held by Labour were £62,000 (a third) more expensive.

The traditional patterns of British politics have profoundly changed, and that partly reflects profound economic and demographic changes which have been happening in this country over decades. The new government is committed to “levelling up” poorer places. But what does that mean, and how can we best measure if we are succeeding? This paper reviews what has been changing in the UK economy over time and explores how different measures of the economy reveal different trends in the pattern of growth across the nation. Learning from this, it suggests how we can best measure progress in levelling up.

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