Owl attempted to read the levelling up white paper.
The reviewers are right: it lays out the problems in a number of academic style essays but offers no cures.
On page 96 we get to the nub of the issue:
Size the Prize
Subject to some assumptions, it is possible to “size the prize” by unlocking places from their low-growth equilibrium. For example, consider if the performance of the bottom-performing quarter of places by productivity were to be “levelled up” to the median. The boost to productivity would be equivalent to a pay rise of around £2,300 for individuals in the poorest areas. For the UK economy as a whole, this would deliver a GVA gain of around £50bn per year.
So we are going to invest in……………..? Owl tried following up the 192 references to “productivity” only to find generalities about improving this and improving that.
(We have been here before with our Local Enterprise Partnership, HotSW, haven’t we?)
Next Owl turned to Chapter 2 to try to learn something about plans for devolution:
Chapter 2 Systems Reform (yes this the place to look)
“Chapter 1 described the scale and source of the UK’s geographic disparities and the role public policy can play in counteracting them. It showed that there is no simple or singular solution to reversing spatial disparities because local economies are complex systems, shaped by cumulative and interconnected economic, social and institutional factors. Successful policy programmes need to act on the six capitals [See below] which underpin the prosperity of places to reverse these forces.
This chapter starts by explaining why past attempts to promote spatial convergence in the UK have been unsuccessful and what lessons can be taken from that experience. In sum, decision-makers nationally and locally have typically lacked the information, incentives and institutions to act in ways which support the closure of spatial disparities in a signifcant and sustained way.
Drawing on these lessons from the past, this chapter recommends wholesale changes to the information, incentives and institutions which underpin spatial decision-making in the UK. This transformation in the system of government, and in the governance of spatial policy, is supported by five pillars:
a. a mission-oriented approach to setting policy;
b. a reorientation of central government decision-making;
c. greater empowerment of local government decision-making;
d. a revolution in data and transparency at the subnational level; and
e. enhanced transparency and accountability of this new regime.
These five pillars are mutually reinforcing. Each performs a necessary role in the new policy regime. But it is their combined effect that is necessary to reshape decision-making and deliver the long-term objectives of levelling up, as part of a new system of governance. That is why the focus of this chapter is the improved information, incentives and institutions underlying the new policy regime. “
By this time Owl had forgotten about the Six Capitals and had to return to the Executive Summary:
The Six Capitals
Levelling up requires a focused, long-term plan of action and a clear framework to identify and act upon the drivers of spatial disparity. Evidence from a range of disciplines tells us these drivers can be encapsulated in six “capitals”.
• Physical capital – infrastructure, machines and housing.
• Human capital – the skills, health and experience of the workforce.
• Intangible capital – innovation, ideas and patents.
• Financial capital – resources supporting the financing of companies.
• Social capital – the strength of communities, relationships and trust.
• Institutional capital – local leadership, capacity and capability.
Apparently Devon will be one of the first invited to negotiate a “County Deal”.
Now where does the paper explain what such a deal might include and what the conditions might be?…………..
At this point Owl gave up, defeated.