Many policy objectives advanced by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants were included Wednesday in the UK government's comprehensive, future-focused plan for spreading economic opportunity and extinguishing geographical inequities in the UK.
The UK government announced Wednesday in its Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper plans to boost pay and productivity; improve education and public services; restore local pride; and empower local leaders.
Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, chief executive–Management Accounting for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA, said in a statement that the Association welcomed the commitment to addressing regional equalities in the UK but would like more details about how success would be measured in the initiative.
The plan advances many of the Association's policy objectives. The Levelling Up plans include:
- Investment increasing by 40% outside of London and South East and accounting for 55% of public research and development expenditure: CIMA's Budgeting for Recovery and a Long-Term Economic Future for the UK report called for more research and development spending outside the Greater South East.
- A majority of the country gaining access to 5G broadband: The Budgeting for Recovery report advocated for greater investment in broadband and recognition of its role in green infrastructure.
- Illiteracy and innumeracy in primary school leavers effectively eliminated, focusing the government's education efforts on the most disadvantaged parts of the country: CIMA's Tackling the UK Productivity Puzzle report called for an increased focus on improving literacy and numeracy rates.
- Devolution of greater powers to local and regional government as part of levelling up through the County Deals, Trailblazer devolution deals, and offering for every part of England that wants it to have London-style powers: The CIMA productivity report advocated for handing more powers to devolved mayors and regions.
- A commitment to increasing productivity and closing the gap between the best and worst performers: The productivity paper focused on the low productivity in the North and Midlands relative to the Greater South East.
- Creation of new innovation accelerators in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Glasgow City-Region: CIMA's productivity report called for the creation of regional productivity hubs and clusters.
- A proposal for local skills improvement plans with funding across England: The Budgeting for Recovery report called for the creation of skills clusters.
- A new devolution framework with clear options for places in England that wish for greater local control: The Association has called for further devolution of skills and education policy. CIMA's productivity report called for the UK and regional governments to create productivity and skills hubs through further devolved powers.
- Greater alignment to the delivery of employment and skills interventions in 50 local areas that were identified as having low skills in the working-age population: This was similar to the Association's call for skills clusters.
The Levelling Up white paper listed 12 key medium-term missions; half of them were focused on key areas of Association advocacy, including:
- Productivity identified as an area of focus along with pay and employment.
- More research and development spending and a focus on economic prosperity outside London and the Greater South East.
- Better broadband and 5G coverage.
- A focus on literacy and numeracy.
- A focus on skills.
- Proposed devolution.
Harding said in a statement that the publication of the Levelling Up white paper is a step in the right direction when it comes to spreading economic opportunity and empowering regional economies to thrive.
"We are particularly pleased to see that the government has committed to closing the regional productivity gap across the UK based as one of its key measures; this was a key recommendation of our report Tackling the UK Productivity Puzzle published last December. We look forward to seeing the government create the necessary conditions and policies that will enable businesses across all sectors and regions to innovate, grow, and drive productivity."
— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com