Levelling up a mystery to many in the South East as trust in local councils remains high

Tuesday, 9 November, 2021

Over a third of people in the South East do not know what the Government’s levelling agenda is according to new polling from South East Councils, while a clear majority believe their local council, not Boris Johnson’s government, would make the best decisions for their local areas.

These were among the findings revealed in polling of 1,000 adults undertaken by Savanta ComRes among businesses, councillors and the public, published today.

When asked to what extent they understood what it meant to ‘level up’, overall, 31% of all respondents said they did not know what it meant. Among polling cohorts, this finding was highest with the public at 37% while a quarter of business (23%) did not know what it meant.

Decision making

Respondents were asked how confident they were in the Government, their council or business in making the right decisions for their local area. Overall, 55% indicated their local council while 44% indicated central government.

Climate Change

The vast majority (89%) felt that the government and councils should be responsible for measures to tackle climate change. Just 15% of public cohort respondents felt that the public should not be responsible and less than one third (29%) said they had moved to make their home heating more efficient and only 8% had bought or drove an electric vehicle.

Reflecting on the new polling, Councillor Nicholas Heslop, Chair of South East Councils said:

“Government must know that a one-size-fits-all levelling up approach will not work as England’s regions are clearly not all the same. There are many differences in outlook between the English regions and, it must be noted, sometimes distinct variations within regions themselves.

“For levelling up to mean anything it must be tuned to local concerns and expectations – our new polling clearly shows the areas that local people want attention focused upon. Ministers should take note of the strong identity local people have with their local area and take time to understand differences in outlook and expectation.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the strength of local council leadership has shone through and enabled Whitehall to develop a plan for a national recovery. Locally, people trust their council to deliver.

“A strategic and fair approach to ‘levelling up’ is required to ensure those well-established community networks are empowered and funded to help address the economic imbalance that continues to threaten communities in every region in the UK.”

Download the full ‘South East 1,000’ regional monitor for Autumn 2021


Notes to editors:

1. Councillor Nicolas Heslop is available for interview.

2. With most local authorities as members, South East Councils (SEC) aims to work in partnership to make the region a great place to live, work and do business. www.secouncils.gov.uk.

3. The South East 1,000 biannual regional monitor provides a timely index of the interests, concerns and expectations of the communities in the South East. Read the full Autumn 2021 report here.

4. Savanta ComRes interviewed 945 people between 6th September and 11th October 2021:

  • 193 Councillors with data weighted by council type, control, party and gender.
  • 252 Business leaders with data weighted to be representative of
    South East England by industry and sector type.
  • 500 Members of the public (18+) with data weighted to be representative of South East England adults by age, gender and count.

Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables available at www.comresglobal.com

5. SEC is an affiliate member the Local Government Association.

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