More work needed on ‘levelling up’ in Northern, report finds

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Efforts to ‘level up’ regions of the UK have stalled, with people in the North the most likely to say there has been no change in their communities, a new report has revealed.

The Rebuilding Britain Index from financial group Legal & General (L&G) found that less than a quarter (24%) of people in the UK agreed that investment is making a noticeable impact where they live, with rates in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber even lower.

L&G has focussed its huge funds on the UK regions in recent years, including investments topping £200m into the Newcastle Helix scheme and the Riverside Sunderland development.

Its report found that the North East had the lowest score in England on jobs and economic prosperity, and also ranked below average for health and social care, education, and environment and energy.

Jobs and economic prosperity, health and social care, and education were also highlighted as areas of concern in the North West and in Yorkshire and Humber.

But L&G’s report – which ranks the UK regions and nations in eight different areas – highlights how significant challenges also exist in more prosperous areas, with London, the South East and the South West scoring poorly on access to affordable housing. As a result, there was little difference in overall ranking for each region.

L&G said that “despite a programme of major investments, that there is a long road to rebuild the UK economy and level up the regionals. In particular, more investment is needed to deliver affordable housing and greater employment opportunities.”

The company’s chief executive Nigel Wilson – who grew up on a council estate in County Durham and has committed his company to tackling regional inequalities – said “Building Back Better is not going to happen overnight”, particularly due to the current restrictions on movement and social distancing.

Nigel Wilson, CEO of L&G, with Patrick Melia, CEO of Sunderland City Council (Image: ELLIOT NICHOL PHOTOGRAPHY)

But he warned: “It is clear that the longer we wait in bringing forward further major schemes, the greater the risk of existing inequalities between and within our communities deepening further.

“As begin the long road to recovery, it is up to all businesses and Government to step up and invest in the growth opportunities. As the economy continues to unlock, so will our ability to start to act on these opportunities.”

L&G’s rebuilding index is based on surveys with 20,000 people and 52 official data sets in areas including health and social care, education, housing, jobs and economic prosperity, environment, energy, transport and digital.

The company highlighted its recent £1.5bn investment in the ID Manchester innovation district as a sign of its commitment to backing opportunities for economic growth. It is also funding the West Bar office, housing and retail development in Sheffield and the Tower Works build-to-rent scheme in Leeds city centre.

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Graeme WhitfieldRegional business editor