Calderdale should be given top ‘levelling up’ status says new report
Calderdale should be elevated to Priority One status in the Government’s “levelling up” agenda, according to a new think tank report.
And involving the community in decisions that aimed at improving people’s lives is crucial, says the report.
The borough is one of six areas which should be moved into the group of local authority areas in most need, the “Why Don’t They Ask Us? – The role of communities in levelling up” report, researched and published by the Institute for Community Studies, which is powered by the non-profit, non-governmental think tank The Young Foundation, says.
Calderdale currently Priority 2, along with neighbouring Kirklees and Salford, Sefton, Wirral and Darlington, are regions whose deprivation has worsened significantly between 2015 to 2019 and should be recategorised as in most need of levelling up, says the Institute.
In Calderdale Council Cabinet’s goals for the next six months reducing inequality coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is a key driver and the issue has also been recognised by partner organisations, for example the borough’s Health and Wellbeing Board.
And from Government’s point of view, it has allocated £19.1 million Towns Fund money to Brighouse with an award decision on Todmorden’s bid expected soon, with bids drawn up by boards with private sector and community as well as political representation.
Councillors have also expressed wariness about using the term deprivation as many people are proud of their areas.
The Institute’s report puts most onus on government, and follows the 2019 Conservative election manifesto pledge – the party won the General Election – to level up “every part of the UK”, not just investing in these but giving them “far more control of how that investment is made”.
Using Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) – small areas with a population of around 1,500 residents – as a metric the report says Calderdale has 30 per cent of its LSOAs in the most deprived top 20 per cent nationally, with an increase of five per cent over the last four years.
The report concludes: “Inclusion of these areas as Priority One regions in the levelling up agenda is recommended if levelling up is to be founded, in part if not in full, on a principle of relative improvement and fairer economics for the most deprived areas.
“Suitably targeted and delivered support could right the absence of this kind of targeted support for the most deprived communities which has been absent in schemes and policies in the last two decades.”
The report says if communities have a personal stake in the development of their local areas, they are more likely to feel a personal responsibility for securing positive outcomes.
In several meeting discussions, Calderdale Council and partners have emphasised the importance of community and volunteer groups in helping reduce inequality.
Taking in attempts made in the New Labour, Coaltion and Conservative Government periods over the last two decades into account, the report finds £50 billion worth of interventions have “consistently failed to address issues in the most deprived communities.”
The Institute believes this is partly due to lack of involvement given to communities themselves in measures taken, and a failure to address inequalities within an area, as opposed to an area compared to another.
Its recommendations have immediate implications for the suite of levelling up funding programmes currently being developed by the government, say the report’s authors.
The report recommends to central government include the creation of a new ‘Levelling Up Commission’, the creation of new locally led partnerships, modelled on the ‘power partnerships’ first proposed by former civil service chief Lord Bob Kerslake to advise the independent Levelling Up Commission, and a more equitable distribution of community asset ownership as an explicit objective of the new £150 million Community Ownership Fund set up by the Government.