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New Poll Shows Mixed Public Priorities for ‘Levelling Up’

News 22 November 2021

Research published today by Seetec, an employee-owned business group, shows that, although the public is aware of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has a job on its hands to articulate what this agenda means for local communities.

A YouGov poll of 1,496 adults across England, commissioned by Seetec this week, found that 62% of the public had heard of the phrase ‘Levelling Up’. When asked what they thought the Government’s priorities should be in ‘Levelling Up’ across England, the most common results were: ‘Improve public health and wellbeing across all regions’ (46%); ‘Improve quality of life’ (38%); and ‘Increase job opportunities’ (37%).

When asked what measures would extend opportunity and prosperity in their region, most respondents focused on employment and skills support: ‘Work with employers to develop sector-specific employment support schemes to address labour shortages’ (28%); ‘Increase support for the long-term unemployed to find work’ (27%); and ‘Focus on reskilling opportunities’ (24%).

However, when asked what they thought was the most important priority for investing additional funding to ‘Level Up’ communities in England, the most common response was ‘Don’t know’ (21%). The next highest responses were to ‘Increase access to employment opportunities’ (15%) and ‘Skills training opportunities for those leaving school’ (10%). This indicates that employability and skills provision remain important to people as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

In terms of skills support, when asked which one area the Government should target as part of the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, to deliver a more highly skilled workforce, the top responses were ‘Apprenticeships focused on industry need’ (21%) and ‘Traineeships focused on direct job opportunities’ (13%). However, 24% selected ‘Don’t know’, again underlining the need for the Government to engage with the public regarding its plans.

Commenting on the YouGov findings, Joel Charles, the Director of Policy, Communications and Public Affairs at Seetec, said:

“These results show that, whilst most of the public have heard about the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, there is still a debate to be had about what this should mean in practice. Nonetheless, our polling results show public support for prioritising improvements to health and wellbeing, quality of life, and also increased access to skills and employment opportunities in their communities.

“The policy intent to tackle imbalances and inequalities within the regions of our country should be welcomed, but the Government must now put more meat on the bones of its vision to realise the ultimate goal of ‘Levelling Up’ communities as a key plank of the Prime Minister’s own domestic agenda.

“The Government has clearly got a big communications job to reach these communities and explain its plans in the coming months. That’s why we’re calling for nation-wide public campaign to be launched to explain the Government’s priorities for ‘Levelling Up’, and to work more closely with local political and business leaders to boost growth, increase the regional skills base and help more people achieve their life ambitions.”

This polling data comes as Seetec has published its recommendations for delivering on the levelling up agenda, ahead of the Government’s expected White Paper. Seetec is calling for the Government to launch a nation-wide campaign to explain the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda and what it means for communities. The employee-owned business group believes the Government should undertake a nation-wide consultation with the public and business to better understand their priorities for ‘Levelling up’ their regions.

Seetec is also calling for the Government to give more powers to Metro Mayors to address skills and labour market challenges, and to support long-term jobseekers and disabled people to find and achieve sustained employment at a local level.

Find out more by reading Seetec’s Levelling Up pamphlet here.