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No-one in Levelling Up areas thinks their area has improved, data reveals

The research by YouGov showed that many people in those areas see their community is somewhere "people are trying to get away from".

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt fix a 'Powered By Levelling Up' sign on to Accrington Market Hall during a visit in Accrington, Britain, January 19, 2023.?Christopher Furlong/Pool via REUTERS
Rishi Sunak has come under fire over his latest round of levelling up funding. (Reuters)

The majority of people who live in places that have received 'Levelling Up' funding think their area has declined rather than improved, new research has revealed.

The research by YouGov showed that many people in those areas see their community is somewhere "people are trying to get away from".

The research comes as Rishi Sunak came under fire over the second round of Levelling Up money, which saw the richer South East of England region get more than the north-east.

A total of 111 areas across the UK have been awarded money from the second round of funding, but Labour said the model is unfair and has left the North East as "one of the big losers".

YouGov research suggests that the majority of people in places that have received levelling up funding don't feel their area has improved - with some thinking it has declined. (YouGov)
YouGov research suggests that the majority of people in places that have received levelling up funding don't feel their area has improved - with some thinking it has declined. (YouGov)

YouGov analysis of more than 100,000 survey responses to find out how people feel about where they live, suggesting that people living in areas that had received funding in the first round didn't particularly feel the benefits.

In only four local authorities did people tend to think that their local areas has generally improved in recent years - all of which were in London.

This compared to 215 local authorities where the most common opinion is that the local area has stayed about the same, while people in as many as 142 council areas tend to believe the local area has generally declined.

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YouGov said that as many as seven in ten of the top priority areas for the first round of levelling up funding (64 council areas) are among those where people say the local area has gone downhill.

In the other 25 people tend to believe their local area has stayed largely the same.

It found that there were no top tier target areas where people think their area has improved.

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YouGov said that while the view that there had been 'no real change' was common in most council areas, when comparing those who say their area has improved with those who think it has declined, the data shows that in almost all places people are more likely to say the latter.

In the 215 local authority areas where the most common view is that the local area has remained much the same over recent years, of those who take a different view, people in 208 are more likely to say it has declined than improved, with the opposite the case in just seven.

The research suggested that the strongest sense of decline appears in areas like Stoke-on-Trent (49%), Havering (48%), Thurrock (48%) and Rotherham (47%).

It also reveals regional differences, with people in local authority areas in Scotland and the South generally less likely to feel their local area has declined.

Terraces of houses near the city center of Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, UK
Stoke-on-Trent was one of the areas where people felt there had been a decline rather than an improvement. (Stock image: Getty)

There is also variation in London, with some Havering showing the second highest rate of people sensing decline in the country, yet four areas suggested as "generally improved" include: Hackney (38% generally improved), Islington (36%), Southwark (36%), and Tower Hamlets (34%).

YouGov said the data suggests that 41% of people in 2021 top priority levelling up areas think their area has declined, followed by 37% in tier two, and 35% in tier three - those that had not been earmarked for any funding in round one.

It found that of all local authorities where "generally declined" is the prevailing view, nearly half (64) are in the top level of 2021 Levelling Up funding.

A separate question asked Britons whether they live in "the sort of place that people try to get away from" versus "the sort of place that people would like to move to".

The results show 45 council areas where the local population tend to take the gloomy view, with residents of Barking and Dagenham, Boston, and Newcastle-under-Lyme most likely to see their local areas as places people want to get away from.

Other council areas include several large urban areas like Sunderland, Wigan, Coventry, Bolton, Stoke-on-Trent, Wakefield, Croydon, and Wolverhampton, large towns such as Luton, Stevenage, Oldham, Harlow, and Hyndburn, as well as some more rural areas such as North Lincolnshire, Ashfield, Pendle, and Boston.

Again, there are regional divides in whether people view their area as the type of place people are trying to get away from or move to, with opinions across London, the South and Scotland generally more positive than in the North.