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Policy challenge: Levelling up

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Explore each mission
Mission 1Mission 2Mission 3Mission 4Mission 5Mission 6Mission 7Mission 8Mission 9Mission 10Mission 11Mission 12
Explore each mission
Mission 1Mission 2Mission 3Mission 4Mission 5Mission 6Mission 7Mission 8Mission 9Mission 10Mission 11Mission 12

To support policymakers in refining policy interventions and better understanding ‘what works’, we have mapped our resources against the missions outlined in the Levelling Up White Paper. Where the missions relate to another What Works centre, we’ve linked to their website.

We will work with local and central government as they make use of the evidence to design policy interventions around levelling up and will support better evaluations of the impact of interventions to address gaps in the evidence base. 

Get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the evidence, how to embed it in your decision-making or how to evaluate the impact of your policies.


Mission 1:

By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, and the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.

The success of this mission will be measured using indicators on GVA per hour, median pay, and employment rates, as well as supporting metrics on economic activity, skills qualifications, and others. The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

In addition to the evidence under the subheadings above, the summary from our ‘Foundations of Productivity’ workshop on the role of local business environments raises key issues to consider when designing policy interventions. You may also want to look at our local hiring requirements toolkit and our apprenticeships evidence review that cover the impact on pay and employment.

Mission 2:

By 2030, domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40%, and over the Spending Review period by at least one third. This additional government funding will seek to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.

The success of this mission will be measured through indicators on government and business R&D investment, as well as wider factors including R&D salaries, and STEM graduates. The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

  • R&D and Innovation – Our review of the evidence on innovation covers the impact of R&D tax credits, grants, loans and subsidies. This mission also includes the establishment of Innovation Accelerators. Our toolkits on accelerators and incubators cover these and our toolkits on area-based innovation measures include co-location of researchers and university spin-offs.

In addition to the evidence reviews above, the summary from our ’Foundations of Productivity’ workshop on innovation and dissemination highlights important factors to consider in policy design to improve innovation in local economies.

Mission 3

By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.

The success of this mission will be measured through indicators on commuting modal share and average journey time to centres of employment. New connectivity metrics that account for population density and distance travelled will help identify whether standards are being met. The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

The summary of our ‘Foundations of Productivity’ workshop on infrastructure to boost the local economy highlights important factors to consider in transport infrastructure investment.

Mission 4

By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.

The success of this mission will be measured using indicators on geographical 4G coverage and premises coverage of gigabit broadband. The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

Mission 5

By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third.

The Education Endowment Foundation focuses on the evidence around ‘what works’ in education, and has published a number of evidence reviews around primary education. 

Mission 6:

By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.

The success of this mission will be measured through indicators on people completing high-quality skills training, predominately focused on level 3, 4 and 5 qualifications, as well as the amount of training aligned to employer-led standards. The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

  • Local employers at the heart of skills provision – The White Paper includes interventions to support skills development that is responsive to local need. Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to involve employers in skills provision. Our resources on apprenticeships include an evidence review and evidence toolkits to support policy design. The apprenticeships evidence review looks at the impact on skill levels, employment, wages, and firm productivity. Our toolkits look at the research on pre-apprenticeshipsmentoring of apprentices, and financial incentives to the apprentice or employer.
  • Strengthening institutions – We have not reviewed the evidence around the role of Higher Education institutions in wider economic growth beyond our evidence toolkit on university spin-offs.
  • Lifelong training – Our employment training evidence review looks at a range of types of training and design elements to help individuals move into employment. Our employment training toolkits focus on careers counselling, financial incentives, pre-qualifications, and the use of reminders, in increasing take-up, performance, and completion of training programmes.
  • Work opportunities and progression – In addition to the employment training evidence above, our evidence toolkits on in-work support cover high involvement management practices that looks to increase employee involvement in decision making and improving processes, and broader in-work progression programmes which include training opportunities, job moves to progress skills, and financial incentives.
  • Employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions – Our evidence reviews on in-work training and employment training (i.e. moving into work) have not focused on programmes that targeted specific groups.

In addition to the evidence above, the summary from our ‘Foundations of Productivity’ workshop on the role of local skills strategies highlights key issues to consider when designing policy interventions in this area.

Mission 7:

By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) focuses on the evidence of ‘what works’ around health and care. They have provided guidance on addressing health inequalities.

Mission 8:

By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing has evidence and resources on wellbeing, including policy tools, and place-based work. The Centre for Ageing Better looks at ‘what works’ to improve quality of life in later years. The Early Intervention Foundation considers the evidence in ‘what works’ to provide early support for children and young people at risk of poor outcomes.

Mission 9

By 2030, pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing.

The measurement of success of this mission is still being developed around satisfaction and pride of place. This mission looks to address outcomes around community, belonging, and wellbeing. Local areas will likely be expected to focus their strategic case on life satisfaction and pride of place outcomes, rather than on economic impact. Our previous evidence research has looked at the economic impact of some of these interventions. We are undertaking several reviews that will add to the evidence on this mission – watch this space.

The policy approaches set out under this mission are:

Mission 10

By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.

This mission will measure progress through housing quality standards for renters and numbers of first-time buyers. The policy approach set out under this mission is:

  • Home ownership and housing quality in England – We have not examined the evidence on home ownership and housing quality directly. However, many of our evidence reviews look at effects on house prices. In many cases, such as discussed in the evidence reviews on enterprise zoneslocal hiring requirementsrail investment, and estate renewal, policies increase house prices. Increased prices can impact the affordability of housing for local residents, and lead to a change in the characteristics of residents. This can have negative effects – such as the displacement of low-income residents – and positive effects – such as increasing the availability of skills, more disposable income to support retail and hospitality, or larger tax base for public investment.

Mission 11

By 2030, homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst- affected areas.

The College of Policing focuses on the evidence of ‘what works’ around crime, and has a range of research and toolkits for crime reduction. The Early Intervention Foundation considers the evidence in ‘what works’ to provide early support for children and young people at risk of poor outcomes including crime prevention.

Mission 12

By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

The success of this mission will be measured using indicators on the proportion of population living in an area of devolution, as well as metrics around decentralised decision making and people feeling involved in decisions. The policy approach set out under this mission is: