Westminster Social Policy Forum

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Regional inequalities and assessing the Government’s levelling up policy framework - priorities, funding mechanisms, implementation, and targeting need across the UK

Morning, Friday, 30th April 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on the Westminster government’s levelling up policy agenda, aimed at addressing regional inequality and securing economic recovery across the nations and regions of the UK.

Stakeholders and key policymakers will discuss the new funding and support frameworks being developed to replace EU funding following Brexit, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the Levelling Up Fund - priorities for allocation and the project bidding process, as well as maximising its impact for left-behind regions
  • the UK Shared Prosperity Fund - next steps for pilot projects, working with national and regional administrations, and managing the transition from support that previously came through the EU
  • further policy development - supporting infrastructure development needed to support economic growth, coordination with green recovery and wider policy agenda, and further options for policy to support economic recovery and wellbeing across the UK

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; Defra; the DCMS; the DIT; the Department for the Economy, NI; the DfT; the Department of Finance, NI; the DWP; the IPO; MHCLG; the ONS; the ORR; Ofsted; The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

The agenda:

  • The outlook for supporting economic growth and regeneration across the UK
  • Priorities for taking forward the Levelling Up Fund, delivering ‘real impact’ for left-behind regions, tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on growth, and ensuring a fair bidding process for projects
  • Major infrastructure development and regeneration to support economic recovery and growth
  • Transitioning towards the Shared Prosperity Fund, and priorities for supporting devolved nations and addressing regional inequality
  • Taking forward the Levelling Up Fund and the wider vision for policy going forward

The context at a glance:

  • the £4bn Levelling Up Fund - introduced in the Spending Review alongside a range of government measures aimed at supporting its levelling up agenda, including:

    • the National Home Building Fund - £7.1bn to support building more homes and levelling up communities
    • the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund - a regeneration package including £830m for 72 areas across England to support recovery from the pandemic
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - outlining:

    • the UK’s long-term priorities for infrastructure development and investment
    • plans to develop a new UK Infrastructure Bank to finance major new investment projects
  • a UK Shared Prosperity Fund - planned to replace EU funding and support levelling up across the UK:

    • pilot projects - being set up to help prepare local communities for introduction of the Fund, with further details expected soon
    • CST response to Scottish Government - from the UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance:
      • presenting the Fund as a UK project, aimed at levelling up areas in most need
      • confirming that the total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match EU receipts
    • a Scottish Shared Prosperity Fund (SSPF) - the Scottish Government setting out plans for its own scheme designed to ensure Scotland’s priorities are met

Key areas for discussion:

  • the economic development landscape - assessing the impact of the pandemic on growth, the policy response, and what is needed going forward
  • the Levelling Up Fund and agenda - priorities for government proposals for the fund, with the launch of the first round of competitions planned for early this year:

    • administration and targeting:
      • designing allocation mechanisms - ensuring that the Fund benefits the areas that are most in need
      • how the Fund should be delivered - and what more can be done to ensure a fair bidding process for projects
      • local, regional and national needs - ensuring that funding supports projects and developments that are optimally suited to varying economic and social priorities across the UK
    • joined-up policy:
      • linking with other government initiatives aimed at supporting economic growth - including the National Home Building Fund, the Towns Fund and the Future High Streets Fund
      • coordination with wider priorities - including a green economic recovery, job creation, and the path to net-zero
    • COVID-19 - accounting for the impact of the pandemic on growth, wellbeing and inequalities, and discussing what is most needed for responding to the ongoing challenges it poses
  • major infrastructure - priorities for identifying, scoping and agreeing projects across the UK with the greatest potential to unlock growth and attract investment into the UK’s nations and regions
  • the UK Shared Prosperity Fund - the transition to the fund following the UK’s exit from the EU:

    • pilot projects:
      • how will they need to work to best support local authorities to be ready to roll out the UK Shared Prosperity Fund
      • how should funds be allocated to ensure that they address regional inequality
    • the UK Government’s approach:
      • ensuring regional needs are met - what is needed from Westminster in working with devolved national and regional administrations to design a system that ensures distinctive needs and priorities are met fairly across the UK
      • continuity of support following Brexit - making certain that the fund adequately replaces previous EU funds for devolved nations, regional authorities and local communities
  • what next for the levelling up agenda - considering the wider the long-term policy options for supporting economic development and recovery across the UK

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Bev Hurley

Chair, Institute of Economic Development; and Chief Executive, YTKO Group

Stephen Dance

Head of Infrastructure Delivery, Infrastructure and Projects Authority


Peter Gibson MP

Vice-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Town Centres

Kevin Hollinrake MP

Co-Chair, Northern Powerhouse All-Party Parliamentary Group


Mark Richards

Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Professor Tony Travers

Professor in Practice, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political

Andrew McPhillips

Chief Economist, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Mark Duddridge

Chair, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP

Councillor Rob Stewart

Leader, City and County of Swansea Council