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Statement: Lord Kerslake, Chair of the UK2070 Commission – Preparing to Rebuild a Fairer and Stronger UK

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A month ago, I launched the UK2070 Commission Final Report Make No Little Plans: Acting At Scale For a Fairer and Stronger Future.

The Report presents a 10-Point programme of action to tackle the regional inequalities that have blighted the UK for too long. It highlights the need to ‘think big’ if economic performance and social conditions are to be levelled-up across the UK.

This report received wide support nationally, regionally and locally. The agenda for action has been endorsed across the country, from the Tyne to Cornwall, from Glasgow to London and from all the devolved nations. It received wide coverage in all the major national media and press. It has, as a result, helped generate a national conversation, reflected in the level of media traffic, with over 100,000 online hits on the day of the launch alone.

It is also clear that the agenda set out in the Report is reflected in the range of actions that have been set in hand by the Government immediately before the COVID 19 crisis. This includes the Chancellor’s budget statement on levelling up, including the priority that needs to be given to increasing significantly the investment in R&D and the Infrastructure of the UK.

The current COVID19 crisis itself has two implications for the work of the Commission:

  • Firstly, on a practical level we have had to rethink our programme – for example, the regional road-shows have had to be put on hold.
  • Secondly, the June event in the House of Lords to present a 100-day Report will now not take place.

This however does not lessen the importance of the Commission’s call for action. Not since the Second World War has there been a greater need for a clear Vision for the renewal of the UK, its wealth and wellbeing, as presented in our Report. It is now even more important to maintain our effort, albeit through different channels.

We are therefore continuing to engage with Government and other key bodies in anticipation of the need to kick-start the economy and to adapt to inevitable change with the same energy that is being applied to defeating the pandemic itself. I will therefore prepare a Progress Report for publication as soon as it is appropriate. This will take forward the proposals in the report, refresh its analytical basis and take account of any new evidence.

I therefore seek the continuing support of all – from government, business, civil society, think tanks and universities. On a practical basis you could do this by signing up to our Declaration of Intent and letting us know of any new evidence that you are aware of that we should bear in mind. In addition, I would welcome any think piece that you could contribute to the development of our thinking on the implications of the current crisis and the need for levelling-up of the UK.


Lord Kerslake

Email UK2070Commission@turntown.com
Twitter @uk_2070

UK2070 Final Report Published

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MediaCityUK, Salford, 27 February 2020 – The UK2070 Commission issued both its Final Report Make No Little Plans – Acting At Scale For A Fairer And Stronger Future and an Executive Summary of this Report today, with chair Lord Kerslake, the former Head of the Home Civil Service, warning Government that it must “go big or go home” if it is to arrest further economic decline and social division.

Lord Kerslake said: “The Government’s desire to level up the UK economy is welcome. However, the scale of the challenge we face is such that we need a generational shift if we are to avoid serious decline and division. Many people in Britain feel left behind by growth elsewhere and that has contributed to an acrimonious debate about Europe. We now face a decade of potential disruption – leaving the European Union, confronting the impact of climate change and adjusting to the fourth industrial revolution.

“Our research shows clearly that these inequalities did not grow up overnight. They reflect an over-centralised system that fails to comprehend the reality of regional need and consistently comes up with policies that are either under-resourced, too fragmented, or too short-lived to make a difference. Some policy guidelines have actively stacked the odds against the regions. Time is not on our side and we cannot afford to keep on repeating those mistakes. Government must therefore think big, plan big and act at scale. Bluntly, if it can’t go big, it should go home.”

Click here to read the Executive Summary

The UK2070 Commission calls on Government to stand alongside business and community organisations and make a public pledge to tackle inequality through a 10-point programme contained with the Final Report. Amongst these are:

  • Tripling the new Shared Prosperity Fund to £15bn per annum and continuing that commitment for 20 years – an extra expenditure of £200bn over that already planned.
  • Investing in a new connectivity revolution, transforming the connections between cities, within cities and beyond cities to poorly connected towns. Infrastructure investment needs to increase to at least 3% of GDP per annum.
  • Creating new ‘Networks of Excellence” in regional Research and Development to match the ‘Golden Triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Shifting power and funding away from Westminster and Whitehall through a radical programme of devolution.
  • Strengthening the local economies in disadvantaged towns.
  • Tackling the historic underperformance of the UK on skills.

Click here to read the Final Report

Lord Kerslake continued: “This is not a debate about North vs South or towns vs cities. If we continue on our current trajectory then the threats to regional livelihoods and the pressures on London and the South East will become so severe that everybody will lose out. We also need to recognise that the price of failing to reverse this decline will far outweigh the cost of investing now in creating greater opportunities. Properly investing in levelling-up will come at a cost – but so will doing nothing about it.”

The UK2070 Commission’s findings represent the culmination of 18 months of research and consultation carried out by six UK universities, supported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a specialist research organisation based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Commission’s Final Report offers graphic insights into the impact of lost productivity – and points to the need for substantially increased long-term investment in infrastructure, skills, research and development and reviving local economies.

“The government’s recent decision to proceed in full with HS2 is correct because it represents coordinated investment at a scale that has the potential to benefit the whole economy,” said Lord Kerslake. “But that is only the start. The immensity of the challenge the UK faces means we need to see sustained interventions of a similar magnitude across the economy.”

Lord Kerslake concluded: “Over the past 18 months, the Commission has gathered disturbing evidence about the human impacts of inequality that no one should be comfortable with. Bluntly, it is also clear that trying to determine the future of regional Britain from Whitehall alone has not worked. It is therefore vital that the government recognises the reality of the challenge they face to truly level up the UK. We start from having huge inequalities now that are only growing wider.

“Unless the Government’s levelling up programme is comprehensive, coordinated and long term it is destined to go the way of the failed initiatives of previous administrations. This will result in even greater disillusionment. We can create a fairer and stronger future, but only if we act at scale.”

UK2070 Final Report To Be Published

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We are pleased to report that the Final Report of the UK2070 Commission: Make No Little Plans – Acting At Scale For A Fairer And Stronger Future will be published on Thursday 27 February 2020 at MediaCityUK, Salford.

More details will follow here in due course.

Second Report of the UK2070 Commission published

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The UK2070 Commission, which is chaired by the former head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake, says deep-rooted economic divides across the UK will worsen unless government addresses strategic failings in regional policy which stretch back 50 years. The Commission reported earlier this year that London’s global success was contrasted elsewhere in the UK with some of the worst inequalities in Europe, with stop-start regional policy failing to tackle problems that have led to economic under-performance and lower healthy life expectancy.

Our Second Report says government must urgently develop a long-term vision for the UK which decisively addresses deprivation, unlocks regional economic potential and confronts the challenges presented by climate change and new technologies. It identifies seven national priorities for action which we believe are vital if worsening performance and widening divisions between different parts of the UK are to be avoided.


Click here to read the Executive Summary

Lord Kerslake warned: “Time is not on our side. Successive governments have spent the last 50 years trying to rebalance the UK economy and create a fairer and stronger nation. Those efforts have failed and the hard evidence uncovered by our inquiry shows that we remain one of the most unequal and divided nations in Europe. If we continue our current approach those divisions will worsen, potentially to a serious degree. We need to adopt a strategy that allows London to sustain its global role whilst at the same time targeting some systematic firepower at raising the economic performance of regional Britain. The research and consultation carried out by the UK2070 Commission across the country has identified both where we can make progress and the actions needed to deliver it. It will not be sufficient to tinker with existing policies or make incremental changes to budgets – the system itself is consistently failing to deliver effective solutions.”


Click the image above to read the Full Report

In our Second Report, entitled ‘Moving Up The Gears’, the UK2070 Commission has made a series of detailed recommendations intended to rebalance the UK economy whilst sustaining the performance of London and the South East. Those recommendations are in summary:

1] Climate Change: protect disadvantaged communities who are most at risk from its impact and use the market opportunities created by a move to a carbon zero economy to rebalance our economic geography.
2] Deliver a 20-year connectivity revolution: commit to renewing and extending out-dated transport infrastructure so that it reflects the present economy rather than the past; reconnect marginalised communities and shift towards shared transport and new technologies.
3] Create a global centre of excellence in industrial digital technologies: bring Britain’s leading regional universities together to power-up technologies that have the capacity to create 20,000 businesses, increase economic value by £1.2bn a year and upskill a million industrial workers.
4] Strengthen the foundations of local economies: provide higher quality advice for SMEs delivering local, everyday services; put refocused Further Education at the heart of a refreshed skills agenda; introduce universal standards to ensure adequate local services, particularly in marginalised communities.
5] Accelerate devolution: devolve decisions about regional economies to all regions, not just those with government-sanctioned deals; introduce Parliamentary Committees and Cabinet positions which recognise and respond to the Powerhouses of the North, Midlands, South West and South East.
6] A plan for England: introduce a spatial plan for England setting out explicit, funded priorities for coordinated, connected development which supports the UK’s global role whilst addressing regional inequalities.
7] Level the playing field for funding: on top of a £250bn UK Renewal Fund outlined in the Commission’s First Report, introduce a regional investment bank network; change Treasury investment rules so that they accommodate regional variations and help rebalance the economy according to the long-term vision.

Lord Kerslake said: “Our initial report highlighted the stop-start nature of regional policies, the inadequate resources underpinning them, and an over-centralised governance that fails to comprehend regional need and has an inherent bias towards only funding areas which are already successful. Regardless of the impact of Brexit, we have gone way beyond the point where simple policy change is the appropriate response. We need a new model for delivering regional policy, one armed with the right resources and the right tools and working towards a long-term goal. One of the most striking aspects of the way the UK is governed is that while it has policies aplenty, there is no clear, guiding vision for the future of the nation in the decades to come. We are also taking too many operational decisions centrally and in doing so failing to respond to the fine-grain of local need. The question is not how we pay for all this, but whether we’re willing to accept the continuing cost of not doing so – a cost which will be measured not only in the persistent economic under-performance of the UK but in damaged lives and deprived communities.”

Lord Kerslake said that whilst London’s global success was a contrast to other parts of the UK, it was critical that the capital’s performance was made more sustainable.
“The correct response is not North versus South, but a coordinated strategy which ensures London does not overheat and that our regional economies grow and gather momentum. This can be a united vision for the future, but we start by recognising that there is significant ground to make up in the English regions, even those with vibrant cities. The Power up the North campaign which followed the publication of our First Report is a reflection of great ambition and untapped potential. But there are parts of regional Britain where the lives people lead and the fabric of the world around them is disturbingly deprived. No government with a meaningful vision for the UK’s future can afford for that to continue. The Power Up the North campaign pointed to a real appetite for progress and the need for a more effective way of unlocking that potential. Too many decisions about the regions are being taken in Whitehall when more progress would be made by regionally-owned solutions.”

Lord Kerslake concluded: “The UK’s inequalities have persisted for too long and government must start moving up the gears – first, by acknowledging that these inequalities are not a policy challenge but a strategic threat; second, by accepting that they are too complex and localised to be solved in Whitehall alone. Finally, this has to be a long-term commitment which acts as a commonly agreed guiding light. This amounts to a leadership test for whoever is in government in the decades to come. It will define the Britain of the future.”

First Report of the UK2070 Commission published

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The UK2070 Commission is proud to today publish The First Report of the UK2070 Commission: Fairer and Stronger – Rebalancing the UK Economy ahead of our National Symposium by the same name on Thursday 13th June 2019 at Leeds Civic Hall.


Click here to read the Executive Summary

Our First Report states that the regional inequalities which blight economic performance and life-chances in the UK may become significantly worse unless drastic action is taken.

Whilst London and the South East of England confront increasing pressures on living costs and resources as they soak up most of the UK’s job growth and productivity, our report argues that many people and businesses outside of these areas are likely to miss out on the benefits of growth.

Our report estimates that more than half of the new jobs will go to London and the South East when it makes up just over a third of the population.

Click the image above to read the Full Report 

To tackle regional inequality, the UK2070 Commission proposes:

  • Much greater devolution of powers and funding, including the creation of four new ‘super regional’ economic development agencies.
  • A spatial plan to guide the future development of the whole of the UK.
  • Action to harness new technologies and strengthen local economies.
  • Long-term investment through a new National Renewal Fund which would rebalance the economy over a 25-year period.

Thank you to everyone who showed an interest in attending the UK2070 National Symposium in Leeds – unfortunately both the main attendee list and the reserve list were SOLD OUT. To read a summary of the event, including copies of speaker’s presentations, please click here.
We will be holding another symposium later in the year – more information will be added to the Events Page soon.

UK2070 Commission National Symposium, Thursday 13th June

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Thank you to everyone who showed an interest in attending the UK2070 National Symposium in Leeds – unfortunately both the main attendee list and the reserve list SOLD OUT.
To read a summary of this event, including copies of speaker’s presentations, please click here.
We will be holding another symposium later in the year – more information will be added to the Events Page soon.

The UK2070 Commission are pleased to today announce further details for our National Symposium, to be held from 10am-4pm on Thursday 13th June 2019 at Leeds Civic Hall thanks to our partners and hosts, Leeds City Council. The event will act as a National Forum to both share the work of the Commission to date, and also to obtain the views of interested stakeholders about our First Report, which is presently being drafted and will be published later this spring prior to this event.

The UK2070 Commission is particularly looking forward to hearing the thoughts of policymakers, politicians, business leaders and civil society about our work to date; and will use comments received in Leeds to both inform our work and to refine the First Report prior to publication of the Final Report. The event will also see a number of high profile speakers in attendance debating the themes of the report and facilitating further comment from the floor. These include:

  • Former Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, The Right Honourable The Lord Heseltine CH;
  • The Mayor of Greater Manchester, The Right Honourable Andy Burnham;
  • Chair of the Core Cities Group, Councillor Judith Blake CBE;
  • Chair of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Sheffield Management School and Tagliaferri Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, Professor Philip McCann;
  • Global Head of Infrastructure Equity & Director North West Region at AMP Capital, Boe Pahari;
  • Professor in Economic Geography and Dean of Research for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cardiff University, Professor Gillian Bristow;
  • The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Mayor James Palmer;
  • Professor of Public Policy at the University of Glasgow, Professor Duncan Maclennan CBE;
  • Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Deborah Cadman OBE;
  • Executive Director of Strategic Planning at The Peel Group, Peter Nears;
  • President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Dr. George W. McCarthy;
  • Chief Executive of the North West Business Leadership Team, Emma Degg.

We will be holding another symposium later in the year – more information will be added to the Events Page soon.

In the meantime, the Commission would like to remind readers that while the initial Call For Evidence ended on 16th November 2018, due to unprecedented demand and having received in excess of 100 submissions already, our Call for Evidence remains open should you or your organisation not already have contributed – for more information please click the link provided.

UK2070 Commission opens Call For Evidence after successful launch at House of Lords

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The UK 2070 Commission – an independent inquiry into the UK’s regional inequalities – was today (9 October 2018) launched at a reception in the House of Lords, with Commission chairman Lord Kerslake also opening the Commission’s Call For Evidence with submissions from all interested individuals parties welcome before the deadline of Friday 16 November.

The Commission will examine the nature of inequalities across the regions and nations of the UK, explore the costs and consequences, identify underlying causes, and make recommendations for new policies to tackle the problems of poorer places, whilst supporting the sustainable growth of successful places.

The Commission’s membership includes academics from five universities and the USA’s Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (Cambridge, MA), as well representatives from the Confederation of British Industry, Core Cities, Institute for Public Policy Research North, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the North West Business Leadership Team, West Midlands Combined Authority, and the consultancies AECOM and Barton Willmore.

They will be supported by a research partnership involving the University of Sheffield, the University of Manchester, University College London, the University of Liverpool and the University of Cambridge, along with additional support from the Sir Hugh and Lady Sykes Charitable Trust, the Heseltine Institute at the University of Liverpool, the University of Cambridge and the RSA.

“There will always be differences between places, but Britain has some of the most extreme regional disparities in the developed world – these impose great costs on society, and handicap our economic performance and productivity,” said former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake.

“It does not have to be like this – as many other countries demonstrate.”

Professor Alasdair Rae, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and one of the Commissioners, said: “I’m delighted to be involved in the UK 2070 Commission, but not because it draws upon my experience as an urban and regional analyst. Instead, I’m excited by the fact that our Chair, Lord Kerslake, is starting this critically important work by listening to what others have to say about the state of urban and regional inequalities in the UK.”

He added: “Expert commentators often assume that they know what the problems are, and that it’s just the political will to fix them that we’re missing. This may be the case, but it may not, so through the work of the UK 2070 Commission we’re seeking to go beyond tired ideas of ‘north vs south’ or ‘London vs the rest’ to truly understand the nature of the UK’s persistent regional inequalities and what can be done about it.

“It is only by taking a long-term approach that something can be done, and that’s why we’re looking to the long-term with this Commission.”

The Commission will carry out its work over the next 12 months, delivering a final report in January 2020.

“We need strategies for places left behind as much as places with economic potential, in Britain and America alike,” said Armando Carbonell from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, which is also helping to fund the study. “Laissez faire and abandonment is just not an option – the social and political consequences are too damaging, and could put our social cohesion and democratic institutions at risk. We hope to learn much from this inquiry, which will be of relevance to both Britain and to the USA.”

Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities, said: “In part the problems are caused by historic factors, but we need to find out whether they are also shaped by government decisions which have not been thought through.

“These may include concentrating resources for growth and development in congested places and generating demands for new infrastructure, whilst putting pressure on the environment.”

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For further information, please visit the FAQs page of our website or contact Philip Brown at uk2070@sheffield.ac.uk