The Bank of England’s chief economist has called on the government to develop a unified strategy for “levelling up” parts of the UK, dubbing efforts to improve regional economies so far “piecemeal policies”.
“We need a strategy... not a collection of piecemeal policies,” Haldane told a webinar hosted by the Centre for Cities on Thursday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made levelling up a key part of his political agenda, promising to invest more in parts of the UK that have been economically left behind in recent decades.
Haldane, who was speaking in his capacity as chair of the government’s Industrial Strategy Council, said there was “chunky” inequality in income, health, and wealth between the poorest and richest parts of the UK.
The Prime Minister has so far offered little in the way of concrete detail as to how he plans to “level up” the regions.
“We’ve seen some announcements so far that are a downpayment on that strategy,” Haldane said. “We still await, I would say, the fully fledged, all singing and dancing version of that strategy. I absolutely think that would have happened already were it not for COVID.”
Haldane said levelling up should be one of “two golden threads to run through every aspect of government policy”. The other “golden thread” should be efforts to meet the government’s aim of turning the UK net carbon neutral by 2050. The government should “hard wire” these “crucial” objectives into all areas of decision making, Haldane said.
“We’re not quite there yet,” he said.
The pandemic “ups the ante” on the levelling up agenda, Haldane said.
He said there was “oodles” of evidence and work done by think tanks and governments on how best to improve regional economies.
“What we need now is some action to make good on the words,” he said.