Levelling Up

02 September 2022

What does it mean for the South East.

South East Councils (SEC) was established in April 2009 to represent the views of local authorities in the South East region, most authorities, including Guildford Borough Council, are members. The aim of the grouping is to promote and maintain the South East’s position as a leading global economy, seek fair funding for the South East region, and monitor and highlight the economic pulse of the South East.

All-Party Parliamentary Group

SEC has been involved with the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the South East which during the summer published the results of its report on its inquiry: Financing the future – what does levelling up mean for South East England?

The report reveals major concerns that the levelling up agenda promoted by central government presents a major risk to the region in its current form.

Key Findings

Ther report highlights the following points:

  1. The South East is one of only three regions in the UK which makes a positive contribution to the Treasury.
  2. Many parts of the South East are in as much in need of levelling up as any other region, particularly coastal areas and airport towns, which were disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The inquiry heard that the levelling up agenda has not fairly considered inequalities within regions, pockets of deprivation, and the higher-than-average cost of living in the South East.
  3. A risk of the levelling up agenda is that it could further centralise the system of local government in this country.
  4. The report proposes meaningful fiscal devolution as a key solution to end the financial turbulence that makes it so difficult for local authorities to plan for the future e.g. more flexibility to set local taxes.
  5. Whitehall manages in many cases though the use of a complex set of competitive funding pots which pits councils against each other. It also forces councils to to skew their long-term projects to meet constantly changing objectives set at the Ministerial level.
  6. The report recommends four measures to ensure that levelling up benefits every part of the UK:
  • should not be about North versus South and must not come at the price of “levelling down” the South East.
  • must build on place-strengths with a renewed focus on skills and business driven economic clusters.
  • higher levels of devolved powers should not require further centralisation and directly elected mayors where it is not desired.
  • must address the ultimate issue of local government finance in the short and long term with an emphasis on certainty and flexibility.

Further Reading 

The APPG Report can be found below

A report commisssioned by the SEC Resetting the South Eadt is also below 


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