New research from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has revealed a five-step plan for local communities to achieve levelling up.
Identifying four different kinds of communities in need of investment– coastal, post-industrial, urban and rural – the five-step plan outlines a practical roadmap for government at all levels to turn political ambitions around levelling up into tangible reality, delivering improvements for left-behind local communities, wherever they are based.
‘Levelling Up: Five Principles for Success’ comes from the group which represents those who design, deliver and manage our national infrastructure and built environment, and arrives at a time when national Government is under increasing pressure to realise levelling up ambitions. It has received increasing criticism for a perceived disconnect between rhetoric and reality, including most recently with the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.
Commenting on the report’s launch, director of policy at ACE Matthew Farrow said, “Politicians of all persuasions will want to deliver projects for the benefit of voters in towns, cities and rural communities. This report provides a clear framework relevant to any local authority looking to deliver strategic projects which increase prosperity, opportunity and quality of life.”
The plan’s five-step plan presents a strategy and approach outlining the need for local leaders to: 1) Build a solid evidence base; 2) Work out how you’ll become famous; 3) Build on what you’ve got; 4) Organise delivery around people’s needs; 5) Ask the hard questions around capacity and capability.
This ensures that potential projects are affordable and strategic, delivering real improvements for those in left-behind communities, while helping to avoid expensive ‘white elephants’ and ineffective or inappropriate developments.
Through the report’s analysis of previously published research and approaches abroad, it identifies a capacity gap in the UK with spending on local authority planning, policy and strategy down 69% to £247m in the ten years prior to 2018. To help overcome this institutional deficiency, it argues for greater collaboration – between local authorities and regional government, as well as with the engineering and consultancy sector – and for a broader and more holistic approach to the distribution of funding.
With case studies of innovative projects in transport, housing, and urban redevelopment, the report shares how ACE members are the natural delivery partners of choice in this space, currently delivering inspirational and impactful levelling up projects in Swindon, Nottinghamshire, Swansea, Doncaster and Liverpool.
Peter Hogg, chair of ACE’s places group and levelling-up taskforce, is UK Cities Director at Arcadis: “While our research demonstrates a disconnect between political ambitions and delivery on the ground, our industry is ideally placed to be the delivery partners of choice, helping to plug gaps in local authority provision.
“Our five point plan will help government at all levels ensure projects and programmes deliver tangible and real-life improvements, turning the noise around levelling up into impactful deliverables, improving opportunities for work, education and economic growth. All vital goals as we aim to build back better post-pandemic across the UK.”