Older voters sceptical of Government’s levelling up agenda

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The public, and older voters especially, are extremely sceptical about the likely impact of the government’s levelling up agenda in their community.
The new polling by Opinium reveals that over 55s are least likely to say that levelling up will have a positive impact. 45% say that it won’t compared to only 16% who say that it will.

  • Less than a quarter of us believe levelling up will positively impact our areas
  • Over 55s are the least likely to believe that levelling up will benefit their community, while 18-34-year-olds are the most optimistic
  • 71% of us say we have ‘no’ or ‘not much’ control over important decisions that affect our neighbourhoods and local communities
  • Giving communities greater say over how levelling up funding is spent in their area could be the key to boosting its appeal.

As the Conservative Party gathers in Manchester for its annual conference, ministers may find these statistics particularly alarming given the central role older voters played in securing the government’s success at the most recent general election, particularly in ‘Red Wall’ seats.

Young people are the only age group who are on balance more likely to say that levelling up will have a positive impact in their local area, with 35% of 18-34-year-olds saying that it will and 32% saying that it won’t.

Building our social infrastructure

The new polling is detailed in Building our social infrastructure: Why levelling up means creating a more socially connected Britain.

The report argues that the government could significantly boost the appeal of this policy programme by allowing local communities to make more decisions about how levelling up funding should be spent in their own areas. This is based on 63% of respondents saying that the levelling up agenda should involve giving local people more power over the decisions, services and spaces which shape the places where they live, while only 7% disagree.

The report sets out several policy measures through which the government could support community organisations and locally rooted businesses to access levelling up funding – including a recommendation that 25% of the future UK Shared Prosperity Funding should be passed directly to community-led partnerships.

It says the government must invest in the social as well as the physical infrastructure of disadvantaged places – creating a new national commission to spur on the growth of new community institutions which bring people from different backgrounds and generations together to meet and mix. Power to Change and The Cares Family argue that creating more connected communities in this way will reduce regional disparities in health and wellbeing as well as boost local pride and life satisfaction.

Alex Smith, Chief Executive and Founder of The Cares Family, said: “The government will only succeed in levelling up our country if it breaks open the pockets of power and powerlessness which shape it. That means trusting communities with the tools and resources they require to unleash their areas’ potential and investing in the community organisations and spaces which allow us to come together and strengthen the ties that bind.”

Vidhya Alakson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, said: “Many government regeneration initiatives have come and gone, and large swathes of the country remain relatively unchanged despite millions of pounds of investment. It’s unsurprising then, that older voters are perhaps more sceptical of government’s new levelling up agenda.

“If levelling up is to succeed, the government must listen to the growing consensus of voices arguing for communities to be in the driving seat. Investing in social infrastructure – the places and spaces where people come together like pubs, community centres and libraries – will also be key to its success.”

Further poll findings

Less than a quarter of UK adults believe that the levelling up agenda will have a positive impact on their local area. Just 24% said that it would, whereas four in 10 (40%) said that it wouldn’t.

While over 55s are the least likely to believe that levelling up will benefit their community, 35-54-year-olds are also pessimistic about the agenda – 41% say that it will have a positive impact in their local area and 36% say that it won’t.

The public believes communities are, at present, being given short shrift in decision-making:

  • 45% of UK adults say they have ‘not much control’ and 26% say they have ‘no control’ over important decisions that affect their neighbourhood and local community.
  • 42% say they have ‘not much control’ and 37% say they have ‘no control’ over decisions that affect the country.
  • 47% say that local people should have the most say over what happens in their local area, while 35% say local authorities and councillors should and 8% say politicians in Westminster should.