UK Levelling Up Scorecard: Only 6% of Constituencies Improved … – Bloomberg

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It was a flagship policy on which the Conservative Party won the last general election. But a little over three years since the then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to “level up” Britain — a pledge to revitalize disadvantaged areas left behind after decades of neglect — the gulf between the country’s poorer regions and its capital has widened rather than narrowed, according to Bloomberg UK’s Levelling Up Scorecard.
Michael Gove, the government minister responsible for levelling up, will use a speech in Manchester on Wednesday to relaunch the project, with Britain’s new leader Rishi Sunak under pressure to make good on Johnson’s promise.
Bloomberg UK first published its Levelling Up Scorecard in May 2022 to track whether constituencies outside of London and the South East — Britain’s wealthiest region — had closed the gap on the capital since the 2019 election, based on the government’s own set of socioeconomic metrics for levelling up. The current Scorecard, updated with data as of December 12, 2022, shows that the country’s productivity gap has widened since May and some areas across the North West and South West of England have lost additional ground.
More than three-quarters of constituencies — especially those in the Midlands and North of England — were already behind London and the South East in 2019 and have since fallen even further behind. The Scorecard also shows that 97% of so-called Red Wall seats — former industrial heartlands that swung from Labour to Conservative in 2019, the constituencies targeted by the levelling up message — are classified as falling behind.
Behind in 2019 and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019 but falling or unchanged
Behind in 2019 but levelling up
Ahead in 2019 and gaining
Red Wall constituencies that flipped to Conservative
Scotland
3% of constituencies
levelling up overall
NORTH EAST
10%
North WEST
4%
Northern
Ireland
Yorkshire and
The Humber
6%
28%
17%
East Midlands
2%
West Midlands
5%
East of
England
38%
2%
Wales
3%
South West
4%
South East
No overall levelling up
London
29%
levelling up
67%
gaining
Ahead in 2019
but falling or unchanged
Behind in 2019
and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and gaining
Behind in 2019
but levelling up
Red Wall constituencies that flipped to Conservative
Scotland
3% of constituencies
levelling up overall
NORTH EAST
10%
North WEST
4%
Yorkshire and
The Humber
6%
Northern
Ireland
17%
28%
East Midlands
2%
West Midlands
5%
East of
England
38%
2%
Wales
3%
South East
No overall
levelling up
South West
4%
London
29%
levelling up
67%
gaining
Ahead in 2019
but falling or
unchanged
Behind in 2019
and falling or
unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and gaining
Behind in 2019
but levelling up
Red Wall constituencies that
flipped to Conservative
Scotland
3% of constituencies
levelling up
overall
NORTH EAST
10%
Yorkshire
and The
Humber
6%
North WEST
4%
East
Midlands
2%
Northern
Ireland
17%
28%
West
Midlands
5%
East of
England
38%
2%
Wales
3%
South
East
No overall
levelling up
South West
4%
London
29%
levelling up
67%
gaining
These latest figures represent a stagnating or worsening picture since May. That is bad news for Sunak who has recommitted to the levelling up program since taking power in October, but whose party is 20 percentage points behind in most opinion polls with an election due within two years.
Many constituencies in the North West and South West of England have moved to a category that reflects a deterioration, muddying the levelling up picture. Amid the bleak statistics there are some optimistic signs: mild improvements in more equitable transport spending and civil service employment, as well as relative gains in the East of England and Northern Ireland.
But only 6% of constituencies have moved to a category that registers overall improvement since May.
Worsened
Unchanged
Improved
Red Wall constituencies that flipped to Conservative
Scotland
5% of constituencies
improved overall
NORTH EAST
14%
North WEST
20% of constituencies
worsened overall
Northern
Ireland
33%
Yorkshire and
The Humber
4%
East Midlands
2%
West Midlands
5%
East of
England
33%
Wales
5%
South West
20%
South East
5%
London
1%
Unchanged
Worsened
Improved
Red Wall constituencies that flipped to Conservative
Scotland
5% of constituencies
improved overall
NORTH EAST
14%
North WEST
20% of constituencies
worsened overall
Yorkshire and
The Humber
4%
Northern
Ireland
33%
East Midlands
2%
West Midlands
5%
East of
England
33%
Wales
5%
South East
5%
South West
20%
London
1%
Worsened
Unchanged
Improved
Red Wall constituencies that
flipped to Conservative
Scotland
5% of constituencies
improved overall
NORTH EAST
14%
North WEST
20% of
constituencies
worsened overall
Yorkshire
and The
Humber
4%
Northern
Ireland
33%
East
Midlands
2%
West
Midlands
5%
East of
England
33%
Wales
5%
South
East
5%
South West
20%
London
1%
Much of the improvement is in the East of England, where one in three seats are doing better since May 2022, thanks in part to shrinking pay and transport spending gaps — but these constituencies are closer to London, showing the challenge of spreading wealth and opportunity beyond the gravitational pull of the capital.
The Scorecard tracks 12 key socioeconomic metrics across each of the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies, measuring whether the gap has changed — one way or another — since 2019. The data is based on the priorities outlined in the government’s official levelling up policy paper and compiled in consultation with Bloomberg Economics.
Across the UK, dozens of local areas have experienced an improvement in one or more indicators since May — such as additional civil service jobs or ultrafast broadband speeds — indicating that levelling up is having some positive impact. But in others, such as productivity and well-being, many areas of the UK are worsening.
Behind in 2019 and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019 and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019 and gaining
Behind in 2019 but levelling up
WELL-BEING
May 2022
Dec. 2022
20% of
constituencies
worsened
16% of
constituencies
improved
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
BROADBAND COVERAGE
4% worsened
15% improved
6% worsened
10% improved
CRIME
SALARIES
1% worsened
7% improved
2% worsened
6% improved
HOME AFFORDABILITY
UNIVERSAL CREDIT
2% worsened
5% improved
3% worsened
0.2% improved
Metrics with the least granular data available
PRODUCTIVITY
GOV. SPEND. ON TRANSPORT.
46% worsened
0% improved
0% worsened
29% improved
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
12% worsened
13% improved
0% worsened
6% improved
Behind in 2019
and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and falling or unchanged
Behind in 2019
and levelling up
Ahead in 2019
and gaining
WELL-BEING
May 2022
Dec. 2022
20% of
constituencies
worsened
16% of
constituencies
improved
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
BROADBAND COVERAGE
4% worsened
15% improved
6% worsened
10% improved
CRIME
SALARIES
1% worsened
7% improved
2% worsened
6% improved
HOME AFFORDABILITY
UNIVERSAL CREDIT
2% worsened
5% improved
3% worsened
0.2% improved
Metrics with the least granular data available
PRODUCTIVITY
GOV. SPEND. ON TRANSPORT.
46% worsened
0% improved
0% worsened
29% improved
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
12% worsened
13% improved
0% worsened
6% improved
Behind in 2019
and falling or
unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and falling or
unchanged
Behind in 2019
and levelling up
Ahead in 2019
and gaining
WELL-BEING
May 2022
Dec. 2022
20% of
constituencies
worsened
16% of
constituencies
improved
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
4% worsened
15% improved
BROADBAND COVERAGE
6% worsened
10% improved
CRIME
1% worsened
7% improved
SALARIES
2% worsened
6% improved
HOME AFFORDABILITY
2% worsened
5% improved
UNIVERSAL CREDIT
3% worsened
0.2% improved
Metrics with the least granular data available
PRODUCTIVITY
46% worsened
0% improved
GOV. SPEND. ON TRANSPORT.
0% worsened
29% improved
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
12% worsened
13% improved
TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
0% worsened
6% improved
Behind in 2019 and falling or unchanged
Ahead in 2019 and falling or unchanged
Behind in 2019 but levelling up
Ahead in 2019 and gaining
WELL-BEING
May 2022
Dec. 2022
20% of
constituencies
worsened
16% of
constituencies
improved
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
BROADBAND COVERAGE
4% worsened
15% improved
6% worsened
10% improved
CRIME
SALARIES
2% worsened
6% improved
1% worsened
7% improved
HOME AFFORDABILITY
UNIVERSAL CREDIT
3% worsened
0.2% improved
2% worsened
5% improved
Metrics with the least granular data available
PRODUCTIVITY
GOV. SPEND. ON TRANSPORT.
0% worsened
29% improved
46% worsened
0% improved
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
0% worsened
6% improved
12% worsened
13% improved
Behind in 2019
and falling or
unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and falling or
unchanged
Ahead in 2019
and gaining
Behind in 2019
and levelling up
WELL-BEING
May 2022
Dec. 2022
20% of
constituencies
worsened
16% of
constituencies
improved
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
4% worsened
15% improved
BROADBAND COVERAGE
6% worsened
10% improved
CRIME
1% worsened
7% improved
SALARIES
2% worsened
6% improved
HOME AFFORDABILITY
2% worsened
5% improved
UNIVERSAL CREDIT
3% worsened
0.2% improved
Metrics with the least granular data available
PRODUCTIVITY
46% worsened
0% improved
GOV. SPEND. ON TRANSPORT.
0% worsened
29% improved
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
12% worsened
13% improved
TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
0% worsened
6% improved
The updated Scorecard reveals several worsening disparities since the levelling up pledge was first made in 2019, including in:
Transport funding: London and the South East spent £905 per head on transport in the last fiscal year compared to £442 per head in the North East, a gap that’s grown since 2019.
Productivity: A job in London and the South East generates an average £71,035 of economic output — versus £42,827 in the West Midlands, £45,942 in the East Midlands and £46,331 in the North East. Each of these gaps has grown since 2019.
Broader government expenditures: Spending per head on public services has increased 16% in London and the South East since 2019, versus 12% or less in the North and South West.
Housing affordability remains the only metric that is generally better outside the capital but this advantage is waning in about 500 constituencies. The data for all 12 socio-economic indicators can be explored in the interactive maps at the bottom of the story.
Search by Constituency
To see how each local constituency performed on all 12 metrics and its overall category designation, you can search in the table below. Details on how we determined each constituency’s overall category can be found in the methodology at the bottom of the story.
Levelling up was one of the key policies on which Johnson built his 2019 election success. Delays in implementing it risk creating a voter backlash for the Sunak government. A recent YouGov survey of more than 115,000 people found that in only four out of 361 local authorities —  which can include several constituencies — did a majority share the opinion that their local area had improved in recent years. In the vast majority, 142 areas, the opinion was of general decline.
Critics say the government has failed to deliver the massive reorientation of public spending and devolution of power that experts insist is necessary to stem rising regional inequality. The latest allocation of £2.1 billion of levelling up funds gave them further ammunition. Projects in London and the South East received £360 million, three times more than schemes in Yorkshire and the Humber. The West Midlands was given £155 million, prompting anger from the Conservative mayor for the region, Andy Street, who described the allocation process as “broken.”
Cuts to local government budgets over the last decade and the political chaos of three prime ministers and a revolving door of levelling up ministers in recent years have hindered progress, according to the opposition Labour Party.
“These findings are a damning indictment of the government’s record on levelling up,” said Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary in response to the latest Scorecard data. “For all the grand promises, regional inequality has got worse as the Tories have stumbled from one broken promise to another.”
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit aftershocks and a cost-of-living crisis linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine have all contributed to delays in the levelling up project. The government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which was introduced in May 2022 and includes a formal duty for the government to report on the program’s progress, is still snaking through Parliament.
Watch the Quicktake video:
UK Struggles to Level Up
“Time has been lost,” said Sebastian Payne, director of the center-right Onward think tank and author of Broken Heartlands: A Journey Through Labour’s Lost England, which explored the fall of the Red Wall. “The ultimate challenge is going to be doing as much as possible in the next 18 months, because the economic situation and political instability have meant there’s been a focus away from the core of what levelling up was about.”
Funding delays have also been a setback. The levelling up investment announced last week had been due in October 2022 but was pushed back amid the political crisis in Westminster. Other pots of money — such as the Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaced EU funding, and the Community Renewal fund — have also been hit by delays.
Inflation has also taken its toll. The rise in construction and supply chain costs, at a time when budgets for levelling up projects remain flat, has meant local authorities have had to downgrade ambitions or delay projects while they seek extra cash.
“Investment in community groups, leisure centers and skills programmes are being scrapped, delayed or scaled back,” said Jack Shaw, senior research fellow at IPPR North, a left-leaning think tank. “The failure to match rhetoric with reality will have a direct impact on local communities.”
Although Sunak identified levelling up in his first speech as prime minister, the idea didn’t make it on to his recent five-point priority list for the rest of his administration. That’s a far cry from Johnson, who frequently invoked the phrase. Johnson declined an interview request for this story.
“Levelling up is a long-term program of reform and our focus is on those communities who have been overlooked for far too long,” the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in a statement. “We have a strong record of delivering on our commitment to spread opportunity right across the country.”
DLUHC point to initiatives such as opening more freeports, devolving extra powers to regions and the use of government spending in other areas, such as education and transport, as evidence of levelling up.
The data presented in this story has been structured to allow us to assess how each parliamentary constituency is faring. Where possible, we are using datasets that directly report at the constituency level. But where such granularity wasn’t available, or in order to get updated figures past 2019, we used higher geographic levels such as local authorities or regions and assigned the data to all related constituencies. Bloomberg’s inclusion of aggregated data in this way is designed to paint the most complete picture of levelling up across the widest possible set of socioeconomic indicators.
Several of the levelling up priority areas laid out by the government proved difficult to consistently measure across all parts of the UK, most notably education, which involves different testing standards in several of the devolved nations, and where data collection has been badly impacted by the pandemic. In other cases, we used alternative metrics to those preferred by the government if they provided greater geographic granularity or were more recently updated.
How We Measure Levelling Up
For each of our 12 metrics, we calculated the gap between each constituency (or available higher-level geography) and a population-weighted average of Greater London and the South East of England in 2019 and in the latest period with available data. We then assessed how each constituency’s performance against those baseline averages changed between the two periods. Constituencies were grouped into four categories based on their relative standing in 2019 and how that’s changed since. Here is an example using the salaries metric:
London, SE average in 2019
£3,140 per month
–50%
–25%
+108%
+215%
Aldershot
Behind and
falling
Eltham
Behind but
levelling up
Guildford
Ahead but
falling
Esher and Walton
Ahead and
gaining
–50%
–25%
+108%
+215%
£3,709 per month
London, SE average in
August–October 2022
London, SE average in 2019
£3,140 per month
–50%
–25%
+108%
+215%
Esher and Walton
Ahead and
gaining
Aldershot
Behind and
falling
Eltham
Behind but
levelling up
Guildford
Ahead but
falling
–50%
–25%
£3,709 per month
London, SE average in
August–October 2022
+108%
+215%
London, SE average in 2019
£3,140 per month
–50%
–25%
+108%
+215%
Eltham
Behind but
levelling up
Esher and Walton
Ahead and
gaining
Aldershot
Behind and
falling
Guildford
Ahead but
falling
–50%
–25%
+108%
+215%
£3,709 per month
London, SE average in
August–October 2022
The overall analysis provides a valuable assessment of how different parts of the UK are performing. But by digging into each of the individual socioeconomic metrics the analysis reveals important insights, considerations and data limitations. General details about population calculations and how higher-level data are assigned to individual political constituencies can be found in the main methodology section at the bottom of the story.
In this story we measured constituency levelling up performance based on data as of December 12, 2022 and we compared it against the performance in our first UK Levelling Up Scorecard, which used data as of May 11, 2022.
For detailed documentation on how we’re calculating levelling up performance, see the methodology section in the original story.
For this story, we implemented the following changes and additions:
For both the as-of-May and as-of-December datasets, we updated the reference period data for the salary, public spending, transportation spending and well-being metrics to match the latest source files, as well as the home affordability metric because it depends on the salary metric.
For the as-of-May dataset, we updated the latest period data to use mid-2021 population estimates to better reflect the timeframes of the source data, apart from: metrics at the constituency level (latest available populations are still as of mid-2020); metrics at the NUTS3 level (as of January 2020); and metrics for which data are for the 2020-2021 financial year.
For the as-of-December dataset, the latest period data were calculated using mid-2021 population estimates, again with the exceptions of metrics at the constituency or the NUTS3 levels.
The life expectancy data source file hasn’t been updated since our first story in May 2022 and therefore no changes have been made to that metric.
The above updates produce an as-of-May performance that is different from the story we published last year at the metric and/or at the overall category level for a number of constituencies.
The change between this update and the original UK Levelling Up Scorecard was calculated by first comparing each constituency’s overall category using the updated as-of-May data and the as-of-December data. In cases where our methodology produced a different overall category between periods for a constituency’s starting point — whether a constituency was behind or ahead of London and the South East in 2019  —  change was calculated by assessing the net positive or negative change in the distribution of indicators across the four main categories. Such situations arose in rare cases where different classification methods applied to a constituency in the two periods.
The searchable table below details which method outlined in greater detail here was used to determine the overall performance category for each constituency based on the as-of-December data in this update:
Edited by: Tom O’Sullivan and Jeremy Scott Diamond

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