A former ‘Red Wall’ city in the West Midlands that turned blue in 2019, Stoke-on-Trent has been considered the litmus test for levelling up. The largest recipient of levelling up funding nationally in 2021, the city has clearly defined priorities for improvement, including development, transport, and infrastructure.

What are they doing to level up?

The council’s multimillion-pound plans continue the rapid sustained economic growth that the city has seen since 2015, through focusing on developing the city centre, funding an ambitious capital investment programme and improving transport. Examples of the activity underway include:


The council intends to create the “biggest city centre development site in the Midlands”, which will include the creation of Etruscan Square, with a 3,600-seat arena, 285 new homes and a three-star hotel.


The council have made significant investments into local roads and are pursuing a light rail system, enhancing local rail services. The aim is to radically upgrade the bus system with improvements to routes and provision of low and zero-carbon vehicles.


Stoke is one of the first cities in the UK to adopt an innovative open access model for the delivery of a citywide full fibre network, using public sector assets, including ducting and public buildings. They're also working actively to deliver low carbon heating including investment in district heating, distributed energy generation and large-scale energy recovery facilities.

How are we helping?

As a strategic partner

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We're working together to support internal and external activity. From levelling up to strategy development to ensuring value for money.

As a convener

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We're bringing public and private together to find national funders for key projects, such as housing developments and economic regeneration.

As a financial adviser

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We're supporting the creation of commercial models for public delivery to financial modelling, to ensure it all adds up.

Lessons learned

The importance of strong leadership

Stoke is a great example of the power of strong leadership. Following political change within the authority, a new administration took charge. Led by a driven and passionate leader who has picked up the agenda and pushed for active change, the city is also engaging at a national level. This has been instrumental in getting attention and funding to Stoke.

New powers will necessitate new skills

As powers move from national hands to local ones, the skillsets of the council may need to change. A key challenge for local authorities is understanding what skills are required to deliver on newly agreed ambitions. It's important to consider whether these abilities already exist within the authority or whether new hires are necessary.

Why Grant Thornton

Our advisers have worked in senior roles across a range of public services, and we’re on the ground working in public services in communities across the UK. We know the fundamental challenges facing public sector leaders, and always take the time to listen and understand your specific issues, working as your partners in change. From first analysis through to final delivery, your challenges and opportunities – and sustainability – are our core priority.

Claire Hampson

Claire Hampson

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