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Levelling Up – three key missions for local government

Wayne Butcher Wayne Butcher

The Levelling Up White Paper identified twelve missions for achieving place-based change across the UK. Wayne Butcher analyses what this agenda means for housing, funding, and regeneration, and explains how local authorities can deliver on them.

In February the government published its white paper on its flagship Levelling Up agenda. The paper identified 12 key missions for delivering the agenda.

We've picked out the three most important ones in relation to housing, funding, and regeneration to look at in further detail.

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"By 2030, pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing."

"By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas."

"By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

It will be helpful for places to focus on a handful of missions, to create thinking space to design an approach that is centred around collaboration, with input from residents and businesses to enhance the interventions.

To support Levelling Up, places are being asked to frame their own strategies with reference to the government’s 'capital drivers': physical capital, financial capital, and institutional capital. Linking these 'capital drivers' to the relevant Levelling Up missions will provide a path for local authorities to define ideas that will ultimately lead to regenerating their places.

For place-shaping, we've considered how the three capital drivers can be used to frame a place’s funding and financing strategy, how this can draw on private sector expertise, and deliver projects that offer strong value for money.

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Physical capital

Plans for the development of homes, whether through construction of new builds or regeneration, forms a cornerstone of the government’s Levelling Up strategy. Homes England is likely to have a major role in progressing this ambition to further equip local government with the tools to progress schemes.

With recent developments in the housing market, there's heightened pressure to provide affordable housing to first time buyers looking to get onto the property ladder. This, combined with alleviating the pressure on renters that has increased due to lack of supply and high rents, must be tackled by 2030.

For interventions to succeed, local authorities need support around structuring, appraising different delivery models and developing business plans to narrate a robust and clear value add-proposition to key stakeholders. Expertise will be required in funding and financing, and the commercial structuring to ensure that risk is managed appropriately.

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Financial capital

When considering the means for funding and financing the development of real estate projects, authorities should be open to innovative approaches. One evolving example in the market is aggregation, where the benefits of taking this approach can be applied by collating different funding sources to deliver a system or cluster of assets.

Creating this type of model will deliver systems of assets alongside critical infrastructure to ensure connectivity, creating places where people can live, work and play.

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Institutional capital

To deliver on the ambitions of the White Paper missions, local government must take a coordinated partnership approach. These missions demonstrate a focus on devolution and giving further powers to local areas. This move only increases the need for authorities to operate in an agile, coordinated and collaborative manner. Local leaders must step forward to coordinate and deliver their plans, using central government support and tools to effectively deliver their strategies.

The Towns Fund is a clear example of how programmes can be formed which drives pace and ensures a standardised approach to achieving success.

While the Levelling Up paper sets ambitions targeting 2030, a balance must be struck in setting realistic expectations while maintaining the ‘buzz’ created by the policy across many places in the UK.

A clear pathway to success and value for money can be seen if local leaders approach the challenges of their towns and cities with a willingness to aggregate resources.  

The public will be keen to see funding allocations translating into improved local areas in the short term. Only by effective coordination with the private sector will this be achieved with a recognition that true place-shaping can take many years to develop, embed and yield sustainable outcomes.

 

For more insight and guidance on the Levelling Up White Paper and delivering its objectives, get in touch with Wayne Butcher.