For those amongst us working to decipher the Levelling Up agenda, the past twelve months have been busy building new relationships and trying to assess the impact of this policy on the ground. A year on from the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper and the UKSPF Prospectus, SCVO continues to work closely with the TSI Scotland Network and partners in local government and the UK Government.
Most recently, ahead of the budget, we asked the UK Government to commit to continuing Levelling Up funding for at least a further five years, until 2030. Unfortunately, while the Chancellor stated that the UK budget drives the Levelling Up agenda forward, delivering change for all parts of the country, he did not make a long-term commitment on funding for Levelling Up. He confirmed further rounds for the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) and the Community Ownership Fund (COF) and announced investment zones.
A clear commitment to the future of Levelling Up post-2025 is urgently needed to provide certainty for voluntary organisations and local authorities in Scotland. Making funding available for at least another 5 years would match the twelve Levelling Up missions’ timeframes as outlined in the Levelling Up White Paper.
The benefits of long-term funding are well understood, allowing voluntary organisations to recruit and retain skilled staff and volunteers, plan for the long-term, and deliver quality outcomes. European funding that Levelling Up was originally introduced to replace was even longer term, seven years, and it was a significant benefit to voluntary organisations across Scotland and the UK.
Importantly, the Finance and Public Administration Committee at the Scottish Parliament has also started to scrutinise what funding will replace EU Structural Funds in Scotland. SCVO and the TSI Scotland Network submitted a joint letter to the committee ahead of an evidence session with Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (date TBC).
As well as adopting a long-term investment approach, we continue to advocate for local authorities to engage as early as possible with the sector. The invaluable role of voluntary organisations must be recognised in practice. Alignment between the UK Government and the Scottish Government priorities is also still lacking, and this lack of coordination creates a confusing landscape for us all.
Levelling Up will only be achieved with significant long-term funding and greater partnership working at local and national levels. Are we there yet? Definitely not. Will we get there? It remains to be seen.
If you would like to share your thoughts/experience of Levelling Up in Scotland with us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. SCVO is also organising an event with Minister John Lamont MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, on Thursday 20th April. The event will provide an update on the Levelling Up agenda and the Scotland Office’s role in delivering Levelling Up across Scotland. To book your place, please check details on our website.