- Poll of over 1,000 adults in the North and Midlands where the Government's levelling up plans are focused shows residents prioritise a reduction in crime but also support public funded investment in better job opportunities, more attractive town centres to reinstate pride of place in their local areas, and more empowerment of local decision makers
- Hyper-local transport improvements appears to be a priority over connectivity to the rest of the country; and
- There is confusion about what Levelling Up actually means.
Ahead of long-term funding decisions being made in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2021, new research has been commissioned to better understand the views of voters in the North and Midlands in areas where levelling up plans are focused. It shows that there is a lack of clarity about what the term 'levelling up' means for the regions where it is intended to have the greatest impact.
DWF, the global provider of integrated legal and business services, commissioned the YouGov survey of just over 1,000 adults in ‘levelling up areas’ across the North and Midlands to find out what they might want to see as a result of this major Government policy, which is geared towards ensuring economic success and opportunity is more evenly shared across the country.
When asked how clear they were about what politicians mean by levelling up, only 29% said the message was clear, while 58% were still unclear. Yet when asked how they would define levelling up, there appeared to be some level of understanding with 30% of respondents saying it is about making sure people in the North and Midlands have the same opportunities as those in the South East. However, 28% said that levelling up doesn’t mean anything at all.
As part of the levelling up agenda, respondents prioritised the top three measures they felt would improve local areas and reinstate pride. More than half (52%) cited public safety and anti-crime measures, followed by more job opportunities (41%) and enhancements to town centre environments (30%).
Job security is a major issue. Almost two-thirds (62%) said it was difficult for young people to secure jobs in their local area – and 70% said it was difficult to find 'good quality' roles close to home.
Local transport has a major role to play in supporting levelling up. Better links to schools, shops and their place of work were important for 29% of respondents, closely followed by better links to the nearest town or city centre (28%). Connectivity between the North and Midlands and other parts of the UK was only important for 23% of respondents.
Jonathan Branton, partner and head of Public Sector at DWF, said: "The Government has brought a new team and even a new name to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which has given the policy greater focus than ever before.
"While there is still some confusion over what the term actually means, this research shows there is real support for change and people in the North and Midlands are clear about what their priorities are: including enhancing their local areas by improving safety is high on the agenda, creating more skilled job opportunities closer to home, more local decision making and all underpinned by a greater focus on enhancing local transport links.
"Our research can help to inform decision makers at all levels of government to make the right decisions about how best to deliver the practical improvements on the ground that meets the aspirations of those who will most benefit from it."
DWF's report, 'Will levelling up meet voter priorities' will include more analysis of the YouGov research, and can be downloaded now.
Notes to editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,094 adults living in unitary or combined authorities in the North and Midlands. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 11th June 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) living in these areas.
The ‘levelling up areas’ population was defined as all district, unitary, and combined authority areas in the North and Midlands (England only). A survey of over 1000 adults was conducted which used active quota sampling and weights to make the sample representative of all adults living in these areas.
Why did DWF commission this research?
DWF has expertise in precisely the areas where the Government’s levelling up is most focused. This includes helping to deliver regeneration projects in every part of the UK, from Cornwall to Aberdeen, and Liverpool to Hull. Our work in designing inward investment projects, delivering public funding programmes and meeting the related compliance requirements (such as Subsidy Control and Public Procurement) means we understand the importance of the levelling up agenda, but also the steps which need to be taken for it to be as effective as possible.
We believe that the goal of levelling up is to spread economic prosperity and opportunity to every part of the country is a worthy objective. However delivering the concrete improvements that are needed will be no easy task. We hope that this research will help all those involved whether at national, regional, or local level to understand the priorities of those whose lives could be improved if levelling up delivers on its promises.