The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill sets out the legal framework to support the government’s levelling-up agenda, which is looking to reduce economic, social, and environmental disparities between and within different parts of the UK.
The Bill covers a wide range of issues, setting out the government’s levelling-up missions, changes to the devolution framework (including the powers devolved to the locally elected Mayors), amendments to the planning regime and the introduction of the new Infrastructure Levy.
As the draft Levelling-up Bill continues its way through the House of Lords, the Secretary of State for Levelling-up, Housing and Communities. Michael Gove continues to promote the commitments and vision set out in the Bill.
In his last major speech before the summer recess, he set out his 10 principles for his long-term plan:
- The regeneration and renaissance of the hearts of 20 important towns and cities
- Supercharging Europe’s science capital
- Building beautiful and making architecture great again
- Building great public services into the heart of every community
- Communities taking back control of their future
- Greener homes, greener landscapes and green belt protection
- A new deal for tenants and landlords
- Ensuring that every home is safe, decent and warm
- Liberating leaseholders
- Extending ownership to a new generation
While the Secretary of State remains bold in his vision, he is also cautious in relation to the wider fiscal position and the steps the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have taken to control public spending and borrowing, and their broader fiscal and monetary strategy.
The vision recognises the need to maintain that discipline and looks to establish a long-term plan for housing as a pivotal element of long-term economic growth.
Michael Gove is compelling in his vision in relation to the communities that he is looking to create, and while he is correct in his assertion that in urban areas much of the infrastructure to support development already exists, in comparison to the Greenfield sites, there is a significant challenge for Local Government in terms of the delivery of the “wider” infrastructure, such as Green Spaces, flourishing public spaces to support the regeneration and deliver the inner-city renaissance.
The major challenge that will remain for authorities is the funding needed to deliver this vision.
The recent announcement on the abolition of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and the integration of functions and funding into local democratic institutions means authorities will need to consider how they prioritise that funding.
Alongside this, there is the expectation that there will be further devolution deals with funding allocated to Mayors following the examples in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
In addition, the government sees the proposed new Infrastructure Levy, which forms part of the legislation set out in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, will support the delivery of this transformation.
Although the proposed Infrastructure Levy hasn’t been very well received by some local authorities and developers and it will be interesting to see how this is finally reflected in the Bill and how this is adopted in practice.
There still feels like there are significant questions for authorities around the level of funding transferring from the LEP. And what revenues may flow from the Infrastructure Levy once that has been agreed?
Local Authorities will need to look at how they can make the best use of the available resources, to act as a catalyst for private sector investment and ensure there is a coherent plan that is understood by residents, developers, investors and government that will truly deliver the transformational changes to the Towns and Cities.
The levelling up bill, combined with the transfer of LEP activity and funding, will continue to change the landscape for local authorities and open up new funding opportunities.
Turning broad policy into meaningful change.