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The research, carried out by Pragmatix Advisory featured in both the Local Government Chronicle and the Municipal Journal last week, raising the profile of the issue amongst the local government sector.
The Local Government Chronicle report continued with:
The report, put together in partnership with Pragmatix Advisory, states that if rural communities in England were to be their own distinct region, their need for levelling up would be greater than that of any other region in the country.
According to the report, the metrics set out by the government used as a means of identifying the regions most in need of levelling up do not account for the pressures currently facing rural areas.
This is due to the fact that, as the report states, differences within regions tend to be greater than differences between regions.
It also criticises the metrics laid out by the government as being too urban focussed in their approach, and recommends the government also looks at measures such at the proportion of households in fuel poverty in a given area, workplace-based income, house price to local earnings ratios, and rates of seasonal employment.
The report also recommends the government take into account the frequency of local transport services to access key services in a given area; the distance to further education providers and the range of courses available; referral waiting times; rates of delayed discharge; levels of self-harm in young people and the percentage of premises with super-fast broadband.
These additions, which should be measured at district level or lower, would be an addition to the current metrics laid out by the government as a means of measuring areas in need of levelling up.
Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, said:
“On some metrics, rural authorities appear to be performing well compared to their urban counterparts. But this is because the metrics chosen fail to capture the realities of rural disadvantage.
“Rural areas would be better represented as part of the levelling up agenda by the inclusion of additional metrics which demonstrate some of the underlying causes of disadvantage.
“Without taking these into account, levelling up support may end up widening the gap between rural communities and their urban counterparts.”
In response to the report, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said:
“Rural areas are at the heart of our levelling up agenda. Our white paper is a plan for everyone, including rural communities, who rightly expect and deserve access to better services, quicker transport and quality education.
“We've designed our funds to ensure we reach places most in need and we continue to keep them under review as we develop each levelling up mission.”
The Municipal Journal led with the headline:
Levelling up 'biased towards larger towns and cities' and focused on how “Rural areas risk losing out on the Government’s levelling up initiative because the programme’s metrics are biased towards larger towns and cities”
The research also featured in some regional newspapers at the following links:
- East Anglian Daily Times - Rural Suffolk should be top of the list for levelling up cash, report says
- Yorkshire Times - ‘Hidden Region’: Rural England Forgotten In Government’s Levelling Up White Paper
- Cumbria Times - ‘Hidden Region’: Rural England Forgotten In Government’s Levelling Up White Paper
- North East Post - ‘Hidden Region’: Rural England Forgotten In Government’s Levelling Up White Paper
- Lancashire Times - ‘Hidden Region’: Rural England Forgotten In Government’s Levelling Up White Paper
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