Changing how we build projects is central to achieving a sustainable and equal society – we have to find ways of doing both
Does the Levelling up white paper really address the breadth of inequality in our sector?
It was perhaps inevitable that after its long development period, following multiple ‘levelling up’ funding announcements and the creation of Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, that the eventual document would not meet everyone’s expectations. Yet I can’t help but feel optimistic that the launch of the Levelling Up white paper signalled a clear stated policy commitment to tackling inequality in the UK, positioned as a long-term shared agenda. While this is significant, and a strong starting point, we need to ensure this translates into action, and our sector has a key role to play.
What about equality in the broader sense?
For those working in our sector many of the challenges the paper describes, and the solutions it explains, summarised in the ’12 missions’ feel familiar. We are very aware of the inequality that exists in the communities we work in – it permeates the projects we deliver every day – and many of us will have been involved in work that has taken place to try to redress this. Many of the broader themes set out such as the skills shortage are also day to day realities we recognise.
While the paper acknowledges a basic unfairness in the way opportunity is experienced in the UK today, it could have set firmer foundations by addressing more clearly equality issues such as race, sexual orientation, and gender. I’m excited about being part of the work we at RLB are doing to ensure our teams represent the diversity of the communities we work in, and convinced both our industry, and levelling up generally, can only succeed if we continue to address diversity and inclusion. It’s encouraging that events are increasingly placing significant focus on ensuring inclusivity and I was pleased to see the tangible steps the UKREiiF forum has put in place to do this. However, I am very aware that while gender is one of the areas where progress is being made many of our colleagues continue to experience unacceptable bias and discrimination. Every day this continues is a lost opportunity – there is still much to be done and this must be at the heart of levelling up.
We need to rise to the challenge and demonstrate leadership through events like UKREiiF and Building’s Our Every Person Counts campaign. If we get this right, we will create focus and momentum to deliver what White Paper acknowledges needs to be a long term strategic commitment to address the roots of inequality, one I hope we will now see continue, regardless of the outcome of upcoming elections.
Gretta Starks is RLB’s Head of Place and Communities, leading the project management team in RLB’s NW and NI region. She will be chairing the Levelling Up panel at UKREiiF conference.
This is an abridged version of an article authored by RLB Partner, Gretta Starks, in Building magazine. To read the full article, please click here