Levelling up? Majority of constituencies have fallen further behind since Johnson became PM

Bloomberg analysis found that in 9 out of 12 metrics, the performance of most constituencies relative to London and the South East is now worse or unchanged compared to 2019’.

Boris Johnson scratching his head

‘Levelling up’ has become the centre piece of the government’s vision for a post-Brexit Britain, a flagship policy that Boris Johnson has used to appeal to the party’s red wall voters, left behind by the era of globalisation.

Many of us have repeatedly suspected however that the government’s pledges to level up Britain are nothing more than rhetoric. It has repeatedly emphasised its commitment to egalitarianism, without backing it up with the funding and investment that’s so desperately needed to help narrow gaps in income, wealth and opportunity.

Refusing to impose a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies while hiking the tax burden on working families to its highest level since the 1940s doesn’t exactly scream ‘levelling up’.

Now new data from Bloomberg has found that the overwhelming majority of constituencies have fallen further behind since Johnson became PM, confirming once more that ‘levelling up’ is nothing more than just rhetoric.

Bloomberg analysed 12 socioeconomic metrics across every one of the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies to measure whether the gap has changed—one way or another—since 2019. Those metrics included factors such as pay, investment, well-being, government spending on services.

The data found that ‘In 9 out of 12 metrics, the performance of most constituencies relative to London and the South East is now worse or unchanged compared to 2019’.

The analysis by Joe Mayes, Andre Tartar and Demetrios Pogkas states: “Only on a few metrics has the gap narrowed for much of the UK—including life expectancy and the share of people receiving Universal Credit benefits—and in both those cases it’s because the situation in London and the South East has worsened.”

The government has for example made it a priority to ‘close the gap in pay, employment and productivity’, yet the latest analysis finds that ‘this is one of the worst-performing metrics, with only 23 constituencies levelling up while a majority are falling further behind London and the South East, where several seats actually saw gains in relative pay’.

When it comes to total government spending, although a larger and more interventionist state post-covid has meant that public spending is higher across the board, public spending has increased more in the capital than anywhere else.

Home affordability has also worsened for most regions, with property price rises outpacing growth in salaries in many parts of the country, meaning that affordability worsened in every region of the country outside of London since 2019.

In terms of improving connectivity and broadband coverage, the government is also failing on that front, with fewer than a third of seats that were trailing London and the South East for ultrafast broadband coverage in 2019 managing to narrow the gap.

Johnson’s levelling up programme has been in trouble for some time, while the latest evidence confirms yet again that there is no real appetite among the Tory party to help those left behind.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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