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News release

Businesses back government’s Levelling up agenda

New research from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* finds that UK mid-sized businesses believe in the opportunity presented by the government’s Levelling up agenda and see themselves playing an important role in its success, but that the support needed differs significantly across the country.

The survey of 608 senior decision makers from mid-sized businesses across the UK finds that over two thirds (69%) understand what the Levelling up agenda is trying to achieve – only 10% disagreed. The vast majority also believe that the agenda will be beneficial to both local businesses (73%) and their local region (68%).

The research also finds that UK businesses recognise that the Levelling up agenda cannot be delivered by one sector alone and that business has a key role to play in its success. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents see businesses like theirs playing an important role. Less than one in ten disagreed (8%).

Levelling up buy in differs across the UK

But the level of buy-in and understanding of Levelling up differs greatly across the UK. Respondents from Scotland have the greatest level of understanding about the agenda (84%), belief that it will help local business (88%) and see themselves playing the greatest role in its success (86%).

This positivity was also reflected in Wales and the South West with the majority of respondents from both regions believing that the agenda will help their local region and local business.

This differs significantly to the East of England where one in five respondents don’t understand what Levelling up is trying to achieve. Businesses from the East of England also have the lowest belief in the agenda, with less than half agreeing that it will help their local region (46%).

Support needed in each region to ‘Level up’ varies greatly

The research also explored which of the government’s 12 Levelling up missions were most important to local businesses.

Each mission was identified as one of the top three priorities in a region, at least once, demonstrating the differing issues needing to be addressed across the UK.**

The support needed in each region varies greatly with businesses in the North West and South East prioritising improving people’s health, East Midlands businesses prioritising the creation of better paid jobs, and businesses in Yorkshire and the North East and Wales prioritising better digital connectivity.  

Overall, the top three priority Levelling Up missions identified by the UK mid-market nationally are:

  • Improve digital connectivity (26%)
  • Improve people’s wellbeing (23%)
  • Provide better quality housing (23%)

Phil Woolley, Head of Public Sector Consulting, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented:

“With Levelling up clearly marked as the government’s flagship agenda, it’s encouraging to see that, overall, business leaders in the UK understand what the government is trying to deliver and recognise the opportunity it offers to their local region and businesses

“Businesses in Scotland and Wales were particularly positive about the opportunities presented by Levelling up, demonstrating that the agenda transcends local borders and is addressing a fundamental problem that is recognised across the breadth of the UK.

“Levelling up is a complex agenda and, in order to achieve its aims, needs to recognise the regional variations across the country. The breadth of the government’s 12 missions is clearly needed, as our research finds that they were all chosen as one of the top priorities for at least one region.

It’s clear that not every local community will require the same level or same type of intervention and what is needed from place to place varies greatly – while London businesses prioritise investment in the provision of high-quality skills training, businesses in the South West prioritise investment in school education.

“There is no doubt that Levelling up is both crucially important yet extremely demanding to deliver. The scope of the agenda is so vast that it simply cannot be achieved without successful public and private sector collaboration, so it’s reassuring to see the recognition from local business that they have a key role to play in its success.

“It’s vital though that local authorities also recognise the important contribution businesses can make. There is clear willing from the business community to be involved and authorities need to explore how best to engage with local businesses to tackle the most pressing issues in their area. Building resilient local coalitions, made up of local authorities, local businesses and other anchor institutions, that are focused on outcomes, will be essential if progress is to be maintained over the long term.”

Notes

*The Grant Thornton Business Outlook Tracker is a bi-monthly survey of mid-market businesses. Censuswide (on behalf of Grant Thornton UK LLP) surveyed 608 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses between 1-13 June 2022. The UK mid-market is defined as companies with an annual turnover between £50million - £500million. 

**

Region Priority Mission 1 Priority Mission 2 Priority Mission 3
East of England Improve people's wellbeing Improve people's healthn Invest in the provision of high-quality skills training
Give more power to local politicians
Reduce Crime
East Midlands Support the creation of better paid jobs Improve public transport connectivity Provide better quality housing
Greater London Invest in the provision of high-quality skills training Improve people's pride in their place Provide better quality housing
Support investment in R&D
North west Improve people's health Improve digital connectivity
Reduce crime
Improve public transport connectivity
Scotland Improve people's wellbeing Improve digital connectivity Invest in the provision of high-quality skills trainin
Provide better quality housing
South East Support investment in R&D
Improve people's health
Support the creation of better paid jobs Give more power to local politicians
Invest in school education
South West Invest in school education Provide better quality housing Improve digital connectivity
Wales (all joint) Improve digital connectivity
Provide better quality housing
Support the creation of better paid jobs
Give more power to local politicians
West Midlands Support investment in R&D Support the creation of better paid jobs Improve people's wellbeing
Yorkshire and the Northeast Improve digital connectivity Provide better quality housing Improve public transport connectivity
Invest in the provision of high-quality skills training