Earlier in the year, we considered what is meant by the term “levelling up” and why Christians should care about it. Now, as the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill passes through parliament, there is much to be praised about the intentions behind the bill, but there remain some areas for scrutiny and development.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, first introduced to parliament in May, is the government’s attempt to convert plans set out in the levelling up white paper into legislation. The bill was created with the purpose of driving local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success”, according to the Queen’s speech.

The bill was given its first reading in the House of Commons on 11 May 2022, its second reading took place on 8 June, and its committee stage was wrapped up on 20 July. The next stages of the bill are likely to take place in the Commons after the summer recess.


Intention of the bill

The bill covers seven main policy areas: local devolution, plan-led systems, infrastructure, places and environmental outcomes, regeneration, market reform, and planning procedures.

The intended outcomes of the bill, as stated by the government are:

  • providing a legal basis for setting, and reporting against, the levelling up missions;
  • devolving powers to all areas in England that want them, giving them more control over budgets, transport and skills;
  • empowering local leaders to regenerate towns and cities and restore local pride in places; and
  • improving the planning process, so that it gives local communities control over what is built, where it is built, and what it looks like.

Committee stage

During committee stage, a small number of cross-party MPs scrutinised the bill, proposing amendments and new clauses. Noted below are some noteworthy discussions and amendments that are likely to be significant during the next stages of the bill.

Tracking the progress of levelling up missions

As introduced, the bill did not establish a clear way of tracking the progress of the delivery of the levelling up missions set out in the white paper. During committee stage, Judith Cummins MP tabled a new clause which would require the secretary of state to establish an independent body that can provide reports on the government’s progress on levelling up missions and outline recommendations for their future delivery.

Tim Farron MP showed support for this amendment, stating: The public will take with a pinch of salt what the government say, and what we on the opposition benches say, about the achievements of this government in so far as the levelling up missions are concerned. They will perhaps take with more seriousness, and have a degree of confidence in, an independent body.”

Council tax

A number of amendments were proposed around properties and council tax. Most of these amendments were tabled with the intention of reducing the number of uncompleted dwellings and unoccupied houses across the UK. For example, Alex Norris MP proposed an amendment that would raise the maximum level at which local authorities can set council tax on long-term empty dwellings. Mr Norris opted to withdraw the amendment, stating: we will have opportunities to pursue the matter as the bill progresses, and this exceptionally important problem will not go away”.

Affordable homes

Rachael Maskell MP tabled several amendments around affordable housing, one of which would have required neighbourhood development plans to specify that housing developments must deliver affordable housing. Following debate, the amendment was withdrawn. However, Rachael Maskell said that she hopes the content of the amendment can be explored in later stages of the bill.

Second homes

Tim Farron MP put forward an amendment that would enable neighbourhood plans to include policies relating to the proportion of dwellings which are used as second homes and short-term holiday lets. He stated that second home ownership was creating massive problems in parts of his constituency. While Mr Farron was persistent in putting forward this amendment, and did not choose to withdraw it, it was voted against by the committee members (by eight votes to five).

Our hope for levelling up

Reducing regional inequality must be a priority for this government and parliament as a whole. By developing legislation around levelling up, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill provides a good foundation. However, further scrutiny and amendments are required to ensure this legislation will actually result in reducing regional disparities.

As levelling up is implemented, we hope to see better opportunities spread out across the country, local communities developed into places that meet the needs of residents, and a reduction in homelessness and housing issues.

As we consider how the government can act to reduce inequalities, it is also important to consider what the church is doing to tackle issues arising from these inequalities. This autumn, we will publish a report to highlight the work of the church in bridging gaps and meeting the needs of local communities – keep an eye on our website for the launch.