Regional inequality is a major problem across the UK today. As the government sets out its plan to reduce these inequalities by “levelling up” the UK, the church needs to use its voice and expertise to ensure long-lasting change is created.

Why do we need to level up?

At its core, levelling up is intended to be a solution to the prominent problem of regional inequality.

The Office for National Statistics found that in 2018, household income in the east of England was about five per cent higher than the UK average, and productivity was about five per cent lower. Meanwhile, the opposite was true in the north-west and north-east of England where productivity was higher than income.

Now with the added challenge of pandemic recovery, the task of levelling up the UK has become much harder, yet even more necessary, than it was in 2019. Analysis conducted by Centre for Cities suggests that the economic impact of Covid on cities and large towns outside the greater south-east has made the task of reducing inequalities at least four times harder.


The government has been clear that levelling up is not about the redistribution of wealth. The white paper stated: It needs to begin by improving economic dynamism and innovation to drive growth across the whole country, unleashing the power of the private sector to unlock jobs and opportunity for all.”

What policy areas does levelling up cover?

The levelling up strategy is said to be cross-government” and cross society”. It would not be sufficient for the government to try to tackle economic inequalities alone, when regional disparities stretch beyond the economy and into social issues, such as health and crime. Therefore, the strategy includes a wide range of government departments and local authorities adopting policies that will help reduce inequality.

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove stated:

Levelling up and this white paper are about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.”

In order to achieve this vision, the paper has set out 12 missions to level up the UK” with an ambition to achieve them by 2030. The policy areas that will be impacted by these missions are:

  • Employment & productivity
  • Research & development
  • Transport
  • Connectivity & technology
  • Education & skills
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Place & communities
  • Housing & infrastructure
  • Crime

Perhaps the most radical proposal is a new model of local devolution within England, which will see mayors introduced across more areas. A London style” devolution deal could place more power in the hands of local decision-makers, and lead to fewer decisions being made by Whitehall on behalf of the whole country.

All of the missions are to be commended, but questions remain over the policy details and the longer-term strategy beyond the next eight years.

What role should the church play?

Inequality is not a new phenomenon; it was present throughout the Bible too. God’s response to inequality, oppression and greed always highlighted that these things are not good. In Matthew 25:36 – 40, there is a biblical mandate for Christians to serve those in need in their community, to bring hope to those struggling with hunger, destitution, imprisonment and poverty.

An interesting example of how inequality was dealt with in the Old Testament is the idea of the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25), which occurred every 50 years. During that year, leased land was returned to its owner, slaves and labourers were set free and people’s debts were cancelled. While returning to such an approach is highly unlikely in today’s society, it is good to remember that land, wealth and everything that comes with these things ultimately belong to God and should be stewarded with this in mind.

Many Evangelical Alliance member organisations and churches across the UK are actively engaged in addressing the immediate needs of those who struggle as a result of economic and social inequality within their communities. Our members work across a broad range of areas, including homelessness, addiction, poverty, education and youth work – giving people the support that they need during hard times.

However, if we truly want to see an end to the vast regional inequalities within our society, our efforts cannot end with alleviating the immediate needs of people in our communities. Long-term change will only be achieved through better policies. The church should be the loudest voice calling for the government and local authorities to create these policies and deliver on their promises.

Our teams in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England are working with members to create policy change in areas such as fuel poverty, addiction and education. However, there is also a role for individual members and churches to play in influencing change too.

Next week we will be publishing a full briefing on the levelling up white paper. This will look at the proposals in more detail and discuss the areas in which churches are already involved, as well as highlighting how we can use our collective voice to create a generational shift in socio-economic inequality.

Take a look at our Connect resource, which will help you to think about how to build relationships with your local political representative, and as we produce more information on levelling up, engage with them on these issues.