The APPG for 'left behind' neighbourhoods was active between June 2020 and March 2024. This website will no longer be updated.

Last week the APPG came together in Parliament to launch the final report from its inquiry into levelling up. The report’s publication represents a major milestone for the Group, which was formed in 2020 to advocate for England’s most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and their 2.4 million residents.

Over the past three years the APPG has grown to be one of the most active and influential of its kind. Its work lies at the coalface of domestic politics – focused on how to overcome entrenched and often multigenerational place-based disadvantage. Our research and activities have helped build an evidence base that underscores the importance of local social infrastructure and community-led action in turning around a neighbourhood’s fortunes.

Following the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper in February 2022, the APPG launched its inquiry into levelling up to examine the interventions needed to regenerate ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and to investigate whether the government’s policy programme was meeting the needs and aspirations of their residents.

We know these areas need specific attention and a targeted approach to achieve change. If levelling up is to deliver upon its ambition to spread opportunity more equally across the United Kingdom, transformational improvements will be required in those communities that need them the most. Previous research by the APPG has shown that residents in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods were hardest hit during the COVID pandemic, and are now more vulnerable to the rising cost of living – even compared to other, equally deprived areas that benefit from a stronger social fabric.

Key to the success of the inquiry has been the involvement of residents and community representatives at each stage of the process. As we know from Local Trust’s experience delivering the Big Local and Creative Civic Change programmes, local people are the real experts in what is needed to improve their areas and quality of life. It also means that the inquiry’s findings and recommendations are firmly grounded in the everyday realities and lived experience of those working to improve outcomes for their community in some of the most challenging circumstances in the country.

A Neighbourhood Strategy for National Renewal proposes changes across national and local government and community organisations to transform the prospects of England’s ‘left behind’ areas.

It argues that to be successful and sustainable, levelling up must:

Be led by local people – the experts best placed to know what needs to be done to improve local outcomes

“We can’t expect you to come up with strategies that gets to the heart of problems we face, we are one of the furthest constituencies from Westminster. But you can help communities do this, we know it works.” Billy Robinson, Ewanrigg Local Trust, inquiry session 1

Reflect local needs and circumstances – not follow a national template

“There’s not a single template that covers everything for regeneration. Each project should be guided by existing knowledge, expertise of grassroots organisations in the neighbourhood. Top-down management of regeneration is a waste of existing resources and expertise.” John Angell, Dover Big Local, inquiry session 2

Entrust decision-making – including funding – to communities, not Whitehall or the town hall

“There’s a lot of competition between voluntary, statutory, even private organisations for funding. I’ve got some really good examples of where five organisations were working in silo, and our residents have actually brought them all under one roof around the table and all singing from the same hymn sheet, even though they’re coming from slightly different backgrounds or agendas and funding regimes.” Barbara Slasor, Gaunless Gateway Big Local, inquiry session 4

Invest long-term in communities – to build capacity, social infrastructure, opportunity and resilience. 

“Although on a day-to-day basis we are busy dealing with people’s immediate needs, we know that if we want to improve the lives of residents in the long term, we need to work on the bigger picture. This is to raise aspirations and be a representative voice for Revoe. That means empowering and enabling people to be involved in strategic conversations.” Angie Buss, Revoelution, inquiry session 3

The APPG’s inquiry into levelling up has charted a positive course for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods to finally be supported to thrive. We know that local people are the key to this transformation, and to unleashing the untapped talent, potential and aspirations of communities across the country.

Daniel Crowe is the Policy and Parliamentary Manager and Tilly Steward the Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer at Local Trust, Secretariat to the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods.