What does the UK's Levelling Up strategy mean for the Midlands?

Becky Hughes our consultant managing the role

The 1920s is a period known for some profound social changes, a major financial crisis, and influential technological innovations. The 2020s are shaping up to be no different. In a recent report titled ‘Levelling Up the United Kingdom’, the UK government outlines the challenges and opportunities across the nation - notably how those are reflected in different regions. It recognises that talent is spread across the country, however opportunity is not. It is a call for geographical inequality in the UK to be brought to an end. 

Why is this Levelling up report important?

Levelling up and improving productivity in the North and Midlands will ensure these regions build on their unique strengths and, in turn, this will enhance quality of life across the country. Below, we've summarised what levelling up looks like in the Midlands - a region that generates £222 billion for the UK economy annually.

What does the Levelling Up report set out to achieve?

There is no doubt that to remain a powerhouse for financial and technological innovation, the UK must continue investing in the most successful regions. However, to achieve economic growth and Build Back Better, the government must work harder to spread opportunities. This means growing the private sector, improving public services, restoring a sense of community and empowering local leaders in regions that are falling behind.

This means growing the private sector, improving public services, restoring a sense of community and empowering local leaders in regions that are falling behind.


We live far longer than our ancestors dreamed we would. However, increasing life expectancy does not ensure that quality of life improves, and Covid-19 has added to this challenge for people across the UK.  

The Levelling Up report highlights 12 overarching missions:

  • living standards
  • R&D
  • transport infrastructure
  • digital connectivity
  • education
  • skills
  • health
  • wellbeing
  • pride in place
  • housing
  • crime
  • local leadership


The UK's geographical disparities

Though London has always been the epicentre of innovation and investment within the UK, other regions are making a name for themselves on the global scene. Leeds was once known for its dominant wool industry, but fast forward several centuries and the city is now a major player on the finance scene. Meanwhile, Cambridge has long been recognised for its expansive river network which put it on the map for river-borne trade, and now the city is asserting itself as the UK's leading technology hub. Both the North and the South of England have districts that are renowned for excellence, but where does that put the Midlands?

According to EY, the pandemic might have closed the gap on geographical inequality, but it turns out to have been a momentary change. The analysis of the pandemic's impact on the UK's regional economic divide found that all English regions are on course to return to pre-pandemic Gross Value Added (GVA) levels, with the exception of the West Midlands.

If the government were successful in levelling up underperforming regions like the West Midlands to the UK average, the economic result would be billions of pounds in GDP every year. However, it is not just about economic gain, levelling up geographical disparities will ensure that:

  • Every person has access to jobs and healthcare
  • People develop the skills they need
  • All regions are known as innovators
  • Pride in place is widespread
  • Everyone has good physical and mental wellbeing


Levelling up in the Midlands

While there is a long-lasting history of attempts to spread opportunities around the UK, the government has admitted that these short-term efforts won't cut it. Under each of the 12 missions falls a clear and ambitious medium-term goal, intended to level up places such as Birmingham - the most deprived city in the UK, where 90% of its wards are falling far behind the national average.

Determined to shake this reputation, Birmingham has outlined five Levelling Up Accelerators of their own, these are:

  • Long-term, single pot funding and devolved powers
  • The East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy
  • An early intervention and prevention model
  • Green and digital infrastructure
  • At-scale housing retrofit project


Meanwhile, the nearby City of Wolverhampton Council has secured £20 million from round one of The Levelling Up Fund, demonstrating that the government is committed to developing deprived areas.

What does this mean for finance and tech talent in the Midlands?

Increased investments in deprived areas are the solution to widespread, deep-rooted and long-term inequalities. More opportunities for the residents will boost employment prospects and begin to build talent pools in regions that are notoriously hard to recruit for. As more initiatives surface, such as Birmingham Tech Week and the West Midlands Local Digital Skills Partnership, awareness of digital opportunities is building among young people. In turn, this is helping put the region's digital sector on the map, and the West Midlands alone is on track to create an additional 52,000 digital tech jobs and generate £2.7 billion by 2025.

While the region's finance sector is yet to receive the same recognition, that might change soon. By investing £200 million in facilities and relocating 1,000 jobs to Birmingham, HSBC generated £540 million for the region. Big moves like these go a long way in helping to establish the Midlands as a leading hub for financial services. Add to this the fact that many finance professionals are beginning to look further afield than London when contemplating their next career move, and it's not hard to imagine the region competing with the major global financial centres.

Choose Marks Sattin to help you find your next exciting opportunity

Our team in Birmingham specialise in sourcing the very best talent for a variety of businesses - from global organisations through to growing SMEs, or high potential start-ups - both for interim and permanent positions. It's our aim to partner great professionals with businesses that invest in their people. If you'd like to hear more about how we can help you, get in touch with our Birmingham team.

Alternatively, browse our current opportunities in tech or learn more about our experience in the financial services market.

07/04/22
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