First of all, I want to thank everybody who has helped the UK070 Commission over the last year.
The health and economic consequences of COVID-19 have understandably dominated most of the year. We were fortunate to launch our Third and what we thought would be our Final Report at the end of February, before the pandemic took hold.
Despite the dominance of COVID-19, we have been able to make good progress on work to highlight the spatial inequalities of the UK and measures needed to address them. COVID-19 has made ‘levelling up’ harder but also more urgent.
The continued engagement of the commissioners, our partner universities and our other supporters has meant that we have been able to keep the debate going.
As a result, the UK2070 Commission has been able to sustain its pressure for change through a wide range of activities including:
- In October undertaking a major assessment of the impact of COVID-19, by publishing Go Big – Go Local: The UK2070 Report on a New Deal for Levelling Up the United Kingdom, which confirmed that coronavirus had exacerbated regional inequality divides, and called for the implementation of our 10 Point Action Plan, including a step change in the devolution of powers and funding;
- Engaging with government and parliamentary committees on the need to re-shape industrial strategy, infrastructure priorities and the planning system to deliver the levelling up agenda; and
- Supporting others who are equally committed to building a better future, ranging from the Commission on the College of the Future re-shaping skills and the FE agenda, to endorsing the work of leading universities in their research agenda and civic engagement.
We are committed to sustaining our efforts in 2021. Amongst other things this will include:
- Promoting a series of local Task Forces to make local the 10-Point Action Plan. We have already started on Teesside and are in advanced discussions with other strategic alliances;
- Contributing to the United Nations Climate Change (COP26) Conference discussions to ensure that a ‘spatially just’ transition to zero-carbon is at the top of the agenda; and
- Continuing to work with government, to ensure their commitment to a green recovery plan and locally-led action is not undermined by short-term, underfunded and micro-managed programmes.
Chair, UK2070 Commission