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Spatial Disparities: Annual Reporting

Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

3. If he will make an assessment of the potential merits of requiring Government Departments to report annually on the impact of spatial disparities across the UK on targeted outcomes. (900714)

The Government will publish an annual report on progress towards delivering the 12 levelling-up missions designed to address the UK’s spatial disparities. The obligation to publish the report will be established in statute, creating a regular point for Parliament and the public to scrutinise progress towards levelling up.

The levelling-up missions fall far short of what we really need to make progress in this country. They are nothing more than the Government marking their own homework. Communities desperately need a cross-Government approach that focuses on the different outcomes for people and places in health, education and so many other areas. Will the Minister consider working with colleagues to set clearer lines of accountability on levelling up across Government Departments so that they can be assessed on their effectiveness and on real outcomes for people?

The hon. Lady will find that the levelling-up White Paper and the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill do the very things she is asking. On marking our own homework, she misunderstands the point. The fact is that these missions should not be set in stone. As the economy adapts, so might the missions to reflect the changing environment and the lessons learned from past interventions. Some targets cut across spending review periods, for example, and it would make sense to be able to review them before the next period begins.

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is hard to deliver the long-term, ambitious levelling-up plans set out in law without a long-term mechanism for funding them? Will she agree to meet me and members of the Northern Research Group, which has called for a levelling-up formula to equalise Government spending across our United Kingdom?

Resolution Foundation research indicates that the true cost of levelling up is billions higher than accounted for by Ministers, owing to the continued investment in the south-east of England offsetting the productivity boost in other regions. How will Ministers look holistically at socioeconomic inequalities to better understand how to close the gap?

The Resolution Foundation’s report raises some very interesting findings, and it highlights the urgency of levelling up across the UK and the fact that the cost of living crisis is making levelling up more challenging and necessary. The UK shared prosperity fund will help to unleash the creativity and talent of communities that have been overlooked and undervalued. If the hon. Lady would like to raise anything specific with me, I would be happy to respond in writing.