UK government sets plans for spreading economic opportunity

The UK government announced plans Wednesday designed to reduce inequality in economic opportunities and uplift areas that are struggling financially.

The UK government established 12 new missions Wednesday that are designed to spread economic opportunity and reverse geographical inequalities in the nation.

These initiatives are described in the UK government's Levelling Up white paper that was released Wednesday. Following publication of the white paper, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove invited the first ministers of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to join a new collective effort to level up the entire UK.

The UK government also announced last year a £200 million investment for projects in Scotland, supported by its Levelling Up Fund, Community Renewal Fund, and Community Ownership Fund.

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 welcomes the publication of the white paper and its renewed commitment to addressing regional inequalities in the UK. But he said the Association would like more details about how success will be measured in the initiative.

"If we are to deliver meaningful change and transformation into the UK's left-behind regions, we must accurately track success in real time and report on progress against objectives and KPIs," Harding said. "This is essential to ensure effective decision-making, make appropriate adjustments, evaluate progress, and perhaps, most importantly, ensure accountability."

The 12 missions outlined by the UK government are:

  1. By 2030, pay, employment, and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap closing between the top-performing areas and other areas.
  2. By 2030, domestic public investment in research and development outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% and at least one-third over the spending review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private-sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.
  3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares, and integrated ticketing.
  4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.
  5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing, and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst-performing areas will have increased by over a third.
  6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest-skilled areas.
  7. By 2030, the gap in healthy life expectancy between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 healthy life expectancy will rise by five years.
  8. By 2030, wellbeing will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap closing between top-performing areas and other areas.
  9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people's satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap closing between the top-performing areas and other areas.
  10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas. The government's ambition is for the number of nondecent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest-performing areas.
  11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas.
  12. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

The government's first steps towards achieving these goals will include:

  • Efforts to boost pay and productivity, particularly in areas where they are lagging: Plans include investments in domestic R&D funding outside the greater South East; new innovation accelerators in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Glasgow City-Region; investment of pension funds in local projects; and bus improvements in key areas including the mayoral city regions, Stoke-on-Trent, Derbyshire, and Warrington.
  • Improving education and public services, especially where they are weakest: Initiatives include investment in education where school outcomes are weak; skills improvement plans to meet labour market needs; tackling the causes of health inequalities; and developing a national food strategy.
  • Restoring local pride: Plans include regeneration projects in 20 town and city centres; various initiatives aimed at making housing affordable and subject to minimum quality standards; investments in cultural and sports initiatives; and anti-crime measures.
  • Empowering local leaders: Initiatives include new options for delegation of duties to a local level; decentralising the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to local leaders; and simplifying local growth funding to allow local leaders to change their communities.

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