Why we need to look beyond devolution to create liveable places across the UK
February 06, 2020
Given the enormous variation in the quality of life and opportunities open to people in towns and cities across the UK, it’s no surprise that perspectives on fairness are starkly different too. Our new Future of Government report, Making the UK Fairer: Where we live, shows that Londoners are twice as likely to think that “British society is fair” than those in the South West, North West or East of England and sets out our recommendations for closing that gap.
Closing the gap: who is responsible?
Boris Johnson has said he is committed to levelling up the nation, and the Queen's Speech in December stressed the importance of “allowing each part of the country to decide its own destiny”.
While big and bold thinking on devolution and investment is needed at the national level, small, localised and community driven initiatives are also needed to make a real difference to where people live and address the fault lines in British society.
Our recommendations for a fairer future
In our qualitative research, we found that the liveability of places has a profound impact on the people who live there: the public’s top five responses to a range of statements on fairness included feeling safe and welcome in their area. Local authorities should consider developing a liveability strategy to promote economic growth, improve the cohesion of social communities, and enhance people’s experience of the place in which they live.
"Devolution in itself is not a panacea for citizen engagement. If devolution is to make a difference to how people feel about fairness and having a voice, communities need to be engaged as part of the process." - Daniel Burke, Partner, Strategy&
Our research shows that the public care deeply about their local areas. A significant proportion of the public want to engage in the decisions that affect them – they just aren’t given the right opportunities to do so. Almost half (48%) of the respondents to our survey want to get involved in decisions about their local area, with the young particularly wanting to do so (66% of 16-24 year olds compared to 31% of 65+). The government, national and local, should build on this appetite for engagement among UK citizens.
New technology initiatives, such as Elucd, part of our Scale Up programme, which helps city and police leaders better understand community sentiment using surveys and data analytics, are already enabling proactive engagement with the public in a way that hasn’t been possible before. The government should take advantage of such innovations to create a genuine and meaningful dialogue with people about the future of the places in which they live.
Closing the opportunity gap between places is a complex undertaking, and the government won’t be able to do it alone. Our report sets out how other countries and businesses have paved the way by using technology to empower communities to shape the places they live. Genuinely listening to and empowering people across the country will be key to rebalancing society and deliver a fairer future for all.
Find out more in our new Future of Government report, Making the UK Fairer: Where we live