What will ‘Levelling Up’ pay for?

A priority since 2019 election, ‘Levelling Up’ broadly refers to the government’s attempts to address geographic inequalities across the United Kingdom. At the March 2021 Budget, the Chancellor announced three new pots of levelling up funding: the Levelling Up Fund, the UK Community Renewal Fund, and the Community Ownership Fund.

We have analysed these funds, worth £5.17bn, to understand what they can be spent on, and what opportunities there are for charities and civil society to play their part.

We analyse how much can be spent on hard infrastructure, like buildings and transport links, and how much can be spent on social infrastructure, like services focused on youth provision, new skills training, and overcoming mental health difficulties, homelessness and addiction challenges.

Key findings:

  • The new funds announced at the Budget prioritise hard infrastructure such as transport, purchase and repair of buildings, and building new parks. Of the total £5.17bn, we estimate that up to £4.48bn, 87%, could go on capital investment over four years.
  • Although there is some potential for social infrastructure, such as skills training, the new funding announced has limited scope for services such as youth provision, addiction, or homelessness, which many would think are important for levelling up our communities.
  • There are 28% fewer local charities per 1,000 people in areas prioritised for the Levelling Up Fund (Priority One compared to Priority Three areas). This implies there will be fewer chances for charity partnerships in the areas prioritised.
  • The future UK Shared Prosperity Fund, worth around to £1.5bn a year is due to come online in 2022 to replace the previous European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. The allocation of these funds is yet to be decided so provides an opportunity for significant further funding for social infrastructure.
Charities are unlikely to receive much levelling up funding and will have limited involvement in deciding how money is spent. Click To Tweet Levelling up should be about more than transport and buildings. The social issues Britain’s charities are tackling can be just as much of a drag on prosperity. Click To Tweet


More on government funding, charities, and regional inequality: