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How can Levelling Up work for the whole country?

Harlow's new Arise Centre, set to open in March | Credit: Essex County Council/Anglia Ruskin University

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Leader

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Leader | Essex County Council

4 min read Partner content

In Essex we have a clear vision for what Levelling Up means. Find out how we are making it happen.

Essex is the sort of place which likes to get on with things.

When you are as entrepreneurial as we are, waiting around just isn’t in the DNA. So, with no firm date for the Government’s white paper on Levelling Up, we got on and launched our own. Described by the Rt Hon Justine Greening as being ‘genuinely trailblazing’, it offers a strong vision for tackling inequality through widening opportunity, with real action to underpin the ambition.

Nationally, Levelling Up might be politically intertwined with the Midlands and the North –but let’s not forget that inequality is everywhere. If you travel from the part of Essex I represent in Colchester to the seaside town of Clacton, the difference in life expectancy from the start of that 30-mile journey to the end point is 12 years.

Levelling Up in Essex is all about ensuring that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed in life and fulfil their potential; and that all places and communities should be able to share in this. The themes of equality, ambition and renewal run through our Levelling Up like the wording through a stick of rock.

Take Harlow, for instance. This is a town which is going places – there are exciting new projects and partnerships to support regeneration and business innovation, which is why we held the first of a series of local Levelling Up launches there.  For instance, the Arise Centre, a joint venture by Essex County Council and Anglia Ruskin University which opens in March, will provide an innovation hub for local businesses to connect to research clusters in the life sciences, med-tech and digital sectors. 

But Harlow has some significant disadvantages. It is our second-most deprived town, and more than a quarter of children there are classified as disadvantaged, with all the long-term implications this has for outcomes in education, employment and health and wellbeing. Across Essex, Levelling Up is about breaking this cycle of disadvantage. And it applies wherever you are across the country.

Our ambitions are matched by financial commitment – Essex County Council has committed £10 million over the next four years to support Levelling Up, which we then doubled with a further £10 million to support economic growth and skills. A £500,000 community challenge fund will also put cash into the hands of people to support local priorities – an example of how we want to devolve activity to the communities who know and love their local areas.

Levelling up Essex’s industries of the future is central to our mission.

We will be investing £100,000 in an Electric Vehicle Centre at Harlow College, which will open in August 2022. From September, the project will fund 50 places over a 24-month period.  This will enable local people to develop professional qualifications in electric vehicle repair and maintenance, which we know will be a major growth sector and key to supporting the transition to net zero.

And in education, schemes like Harlow Futures will be supporting children and young people in their learning and then the transition into employment – at the same time, through our Year of Reading, we’ll be addressing the impacts on learning that we know the pandemic has had, especially on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  

Levelling Up is also a team sport. Everything we are doing is being delivered in partnership, with our local MPs, with the District Council, with health partners, with the emergency services, with colleges and schools, with businesses and with local community groups. 

Together we are supporting our businesses, fostering aspiration, boosting education and skills, enhancing health and wellbeing – and breaking destructive cycles of disadvantage.

For more information about the work that Essex County Council is doing to Level Up, please contact our Head of Profession, Communications and Marketing, Andy Allsopp (

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Read the most recent article written by Cllr Kevin Bentley, Leader - Jaywick Sands' Sunspot Business Centre: A Beacon of Revival and Devolution in Essex


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