Press Release

Londoners support levelling up outside the capital, but think government isn’t addressing London’s problems

Most Londoners would support the government’s levelling up agenda if it meant that the rest of the country had the chance to improve its quality of life. However, most Londoners also believe that the city’s own problems are not getting the support needed from the government. This is according to new polling released today by Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank.

The polling, undertaken by Savanta, found that most Londoners would support levelling up if it meant the rest of the country had the chance to improve its quality of life (71 per cent) and become richer (44 per cent).

However, there is still confusion about what levelling up really means, who it would benefit, and what it could mean for Londoners, and for spending and investment in the capital. The polling finds that:

  • Less than half of Londoners (43 per cent) say they know either a lot or a little about levelling up. 18 per cent think that levelling up is just an empty political slogan while a fifth (20 per cent) have not heard of levelling up at all. 
  • 37 per cent of Londoners think that levelling up is about helping the poorest people in the country but not those in London. 
  • Support for levelling up drops to a fifth of Londoners (19 per cent) if it means that people in the city could be poorer, with 55 per cent opposed. 
  • 44 per cent believe London has problems which are not getting the attention they need from government, and Conservative voters (47 per cent) are as likely as Labour voters (44 per cent) to think this. 14 per cent believe that London’s problems are being totally ignored by the government. Seven per cent among Conservative voters believed this compared to 18 per cent among Labour voters. 

The poll questioned Londoners about how they would like decision making in London to be changed. Three quarters of Londoners wanted local people to have more say over decisions (76 per cent), while the same proportion also want government to give London more money to tackle the city’s problems (76 per cent) and for public services (75 per cent).

But Londoners also think that local and city government has a role to play. Seven out of 10 think that the Mayor of London and the local authorities should have more power to run the city (69 per cent) and that the Mayor of London should make a stronger case for more government investment in London (71 per cent).

To coincide with the polling Centre for London has today also launched a new research project which aims to shape the levelling up agenda so that it reflects the scale of the challenges within London and the importance of the capital to the UK’s economy. 

Nick Bowes, Chief Executive of Centre for London, said:

“Londoners experience some of the worst deprivation and inequality in the country. London has also been hit hard by the pandemic and its recovery has been slower than elsewhere. Yet both of these issues are poorly understood, particularly outside of the city.

“It is essential that levelling up the country – a laudable aim and one which Londoners support – does not mean ignoring the city’s own substantial levelling up challenges or that London is levelled down. Too much of the current rhetoric sidelines the scale of the challenges within London and if left unaddressed this will put further strain on the public purse.

“There’s also a large appetite for the city to have greater control over its own affairs. The government can respond to this in the Autumn Budget and Spending Review by announcing greater devolution to our towns, cities and regions with meaningful powers and funding to address each area’s unique ‘levelling up’ problems, including London’s.”

Oliver Worsfold, Director at Savanta said:

“Whilst the concept isn’t yet fully formed in the public conscientious, Londoners are supportive of the noble aim of improving the quality of life of communities in the rest of the country. However, that is not to say that London doesn’t have problems of its own that need attention: there is a substantial majority of Londoners that want to see the Government invest in the city and enable greater local decision-making power to combat the city’s problems.”

“This latest round of polling shows that ‘levelling up’ has the potential to be a rallying cry for unity, rather than fuel the division between the metropole and communities across the UK. It does however show that Londoners want to see a rising tide that lifts all boats, and they want to see investment to combat the city’s problems as part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda.”


Notes to Editors  

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. The Centre develops new solutions to London’s critical challenges and advocates for a fair and prosperous global city. 
  • Savanta is a market-leading research agency, informing and inspiring its clients to make better decisions.  
  • Polling of 1,010 Londoners was conducted by Savanta between 27 and 30 September 2021. Results were weighted to be representative of London’s population.