'Levelling up' plans start to take shape

The UK government has used this week's Budget announcement to publish its plans to 'level up' regional towns and cities with more affluent areas such as London and SE England.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak leaving No.11 Downing Street on his way to deliver his budget speech

Image copyright HM Treasury, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that applications were now being sought for the first phase of the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, aimed at investing in infrastructure and town centre projects.

Towns Fund, freeports, and a pledge to have 22,000 civil servants based outside of London

He also revealed that just over £1 billion from the Towns Fund would be going to 45 regional towns in England as part of the government's commitment to “spreading prosperity across every part of the UK”.Mr Sunak added, “Our future economy demands a different economic geography.”Additionally, he announced the first eight venues where the government intends to create freeports: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool, Plymouth and South Devon, Solent, Teesside and Thames.And as part of the government pledge to have 22,000 civil servants based outside London by 2030, Mr Sunak said that 750 staff from departments including the Treasury and the Department for Business were to be based in Darlington, and that a new housing department headquarters would be established in Birmingham.The first round of applications to the Levelling Up Fund will focus on three themes: transport projects that will be "aligned to and support zero net goals"; town centre regeneration; and projects supporting cultural and heritage assets.
Meanwhile, the North West has emerged as the big regional winner in allocations under the Towns Fund, which is aimed at spurring economic recovery in English towns and cities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Which regions will benefit from the 2021 UK Budget?

Areas of London have not been awarded anything under the scheme, but allocations for other regions total:North West (Preston; Workington; Bolton; Cheadle; Carlisle; Leyland; Southport; Staveley; Rochdale) £211 million.Yorkshire and the Humber (Wakefield; Whitby; Scarborough; Grimsby; Castleford; Goldthorpe; Scunthorpe; Morley; Stocksbridge) £199 million.East Midlands (Newark; Clay Cross; Skegness; Mablethorpe; Boston; Lincoln; Northampton; Mansfield) £175 million.West Midlands (Wolverhampton; Kidsgrove; Rowley Regis; Smethwick; West Bromwich; Burton-upon-Trent; Nuneaton) £155 million.East of England (Lowestoft; Colchester; Stevenage; Great Yarmouth; Ipswich; Milton Keynes) £148 million.
North East (Middlesbrough; Thornaby-On-Tees) £46 million.South East (Crawley; Margate) £43 million.South West (Swindon; Bournemouth) £41 million.In addition to the Towns Fund, a further £19 million has been allocated to local cultural infrastructure projects in Carlisle, Hartlepool, Wakefield and Yeovil, which the government claims will “boost the vibrant cultural life of these towns and cities”.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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