Following the Government’s recent announcement that Neil O’Brien MP has been appointed as chief adviser on levelling up to add clarity and substance to the policy, the Key Cities All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report is calling for the Government to introduce a number of practical measures that will empower towns and cities to support local communities and businesses as the country emerges from the pandemic.
The five recommendations require that the Government take a longer-term approach to levelling up in order to truly tackle disparities across the country:
- Replace current piecemeal funding arrangements with fewer and longer-term mechanisms for regenerating neighbourhoods and urban centres. These mechanisms must take account of regional disparities and be linked to agreed housing targets.
- Facilitate local authorities’ ability to borrow against assets so they can invest in their regeneration and growth, with match funding for areas with high deprivation or poor viability.
- Work with the Key Cities network to design and distribute a new income support scheme aimed at stimulating business start-ups, community enterprise and sustainable urban centres.
- Permit local authorities to enable construction of a new generation of social housing to meet local need.
- Introduce fiscal incentives to support the high street, including VAT incentives for stores with meaningful high street presence, and reform of business rates.
The report and recommendations have been published following the latest Key Cities APPG meeting, which brought together parliamentarians, council leaders and officers from cities large and small across the country to look at urban UK issues in the round. Central to the APPG’s remit is to champion the role of cities in the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
The APPG works alongside the Key Cities network, which comprises 25 urban centres across the UK. Key Cities works with other cities, towns and organisations across local government and beyond to deliver prosperity, protect the environment and raise standards of living across the country. The network champions for the future of the UK’s urban centres by producing research, responding to consultations and engaging with politicians and policy makers.
John Stevenson MP, Co-Chair of the Key Cities APPG, said: “To ensure that the UK’s urban areas can drive the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery and growth, it’s essential that Government looks and listens to those directly involved in running and representing our towns and cities. Our APPG report highlights a number of tangible and practical recommendations that will deliver real positive outcomes to people and places across the country, and we welcome engagement with Government to take them forward.”
Cllr John Merry, Chair of the Key Cities network and Deputy Mayor for Salford, added: “With a network of 25 towns and cities up and down the UK, Key Cities is uniquely placed to support the Government in delivering its levelling up agenda. Together, we can develop and implement these recommendations to drive a better future for our citizens and breathe new life into our communities.”