The government's long awaited 'levelling up' white paper has finally been published. Like lots of you, over the last couple of weeks we’ve been picking through the report, talking to colleagues and clients about what it might mean for their organisations, their communities and them as individuals.
The feedback we have had it's fair to say, and possibly unsurprising, has been mixed. Along with a sense of finally some clarity on much mooted and promised programmes such as the Shared Prosperity Fund, some cautious optimism around devolution deals there have also been one or two very wry observations “I’m all for Whitehall relocations, but it’s my staff they seem to be locating at the moment and they’re not based in London”.
The latter comment is interesting. At a time when jobs, growth and housing are critical issues for towns, cities, villages and regions across the UK – resource, expertise and capacity are in short supply and in demand. Missions are brilliant, everyone writes them – but how, and who delivers on them is really the key.
The re-purposing of Homes England - many people have said is a move that is welcomed and viewed favourably but I know I wasn’t the only one that read the next line work with local partners to decide upon the best delivery vehicle” and think so what might that mean.
Similarly, the plan to scrap the ‘80/20’ rule, on paper has the potential to have a transformative effect on brownfield sites across the North and the Midlands, but what does it mean for other areas, across the south and west where access to affordable housing and major regeneration is also needed?
The commitment made to introducing the Social Housing Regulation Bill was also something pointed out to us as a positive – but as with the White Paper – there’ll be lots to unpick in terms of that it means.
At Berwick Partners over the past few years we, and we hope those of you that have participated have really valued our roundtables, when we have been able to bring together views and insights from across the place making, housing and infrastructure sectors and from the private and public sectors. We have had fantastic, challenging, thought provoking debates and we hope enabled people to learn and
So, the White Paper, seems like a pretty good topic to take apart. The topics and observations that have been put to us for consideration are:
- A transfer of power - The government says the levelling up white paper represents "a devolution revolution" and the largest transfer of "power from Whitehall to local leaders across England in modern times". What does this new focus on increased powers to Mayors and desire for new Combined Authorities actually mean?
- What does the repurposing of Homes England, really mean and what can we learn from the past?
- How will SPF play out in practical terms?
- How will the 80/20 rule be ‘scrapped’? As much as the removal of the 80/20 rule has been welcomed, it is not clear on how it will be replaced? Will a different approach be used towards the Affordable Homes Programme?
- Is there too much promised? The white paper offers 12 missions across every part of government – is there a danger of losing focus and trying to do too much for everyone?