Bradford has greatest potential to benefit from levelling up policies, report suggests

Bradford offers the greatest national opportunity for the levelling up agenda to succeed, new research has suggested.

New analysis by zero-carbon housebuilder Etopia which was peer-reviewed and supported by infrastructure advisers WSP has compared the performance of the 34 largest towns and cities outside London to identify places which have underperformed economically but have the greatest potential for growth.

Bradford is highest on the list, with Sheffield sixth, Hull 18th, York 20th and Leeds 22nd.

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The study has been published ahead of the imminent arrival of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper setting out its policy programme for tackling regional inequality. The paper is expected to be published within the next few weeks having previously been due by the end of last year.

Bradford has the greatest potential to benefit from the levelling up agenda, a new report has suggested.

Joseph Daniels, chief executive officer and founder of Etopia Group, said: “We wanted to create an evidence base which can help Government to weigh up where it should invest levelling up funds to best drive economic growth. The Levelling Up Opportunity Index provides Government with a new lens with which to evaluate the economic potential of Britain’s largest cities and towns.

“If this Government is to leave a real legacy from levelling up then it needs to be willing to take on the transformational levelling up opportunities that our index has shown exists in places like Leicester, Wolverhampton and Bradford.

“These towns and cities all have huge potential to become self-sufficient centres of economic growth and by investing in low carbon, sustainable property development, we believe a bigger, better and more resilient economy can be delivered for these places themselves and for Britain as a whole.”

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Ashley Dunseath, Director in WSP’s Strategic Advisory discipline, said: “This index provides new insight into the economic prospects of our largest cities and towns. In particular, the index highlights places which have missed out on significant investment over several decades but are known to have genuinely strong economic potential.

“Government should consider awarding levelling up funding to those authorities able to evidence the greatest opportunity, and consequently most capable of demonstrating transformational growth by becoming self-sustaining and in control of their own economic prosperity.

“In Michael Gove the Department for Levelling Up is guided by a strategic thinker with a track record of transformation across various Government departments. Levelling up places like Bradford would deliver an exceptional public legacy for this Government.”

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “As this index clearly demonstrates, if levelling up means anything at all it must mean giving extra attention and support to the whole of the Bradford district. I hope that the Government will take heed of this and ensure that support across the full Bradford district is prioritised.”

Policies 'must help surrounding areas'

The Levelling Up White Paper must demonstrate how the Government intends to help cities and their surrounding areas, Dr Tom Arnold of the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place at the University of Liverpool has said.

“The economic benefits of creating thriving, self-sufficient city-regions – not just for those that live there, but those who live within commuting distance – have been well understood by previous governments,” he said.

“Improving the economic fortunes of large towns and city-regions is crucial to the prosperity of places within commuting distance.”

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