Published by the Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis online, May 2024

Author: Niamh Mulcahy

This paper explores increasing emphasis on long-term investment in English devolution policy, as part of attempts to revitalise struggling communities through investment in infrastructure and public space. English councils seek to offset the financial difficulties they faced due to austerity cuts by establishing their own corporations, joint ventures, and investment partnerships, in order to generate needed income by creating economic flows from capital markets to public services. They have, consequently, envisaged a form of ‘patient investment’ in their communities, taking a long-term view of economic regeneration that aims to balance the risk of investment with the reward of local growth. The rollout of the Levelling Up agenda in February 2022 entrenches the narrative of patient investment as a conduit to regional regeneration, although it emphasises investment in infrastructure projects primarily for the purpose of attracting business and industry to deprived areas. Through a narrative policy analysis of Parliamentary debates about Levelling Up in England, I examine the turn towards long-term investment as an ethical shift in conceptions of welfare provision which prioritises private sector expansion for its potential to drive economic improvement. In this understanding, quality of life in communities is tied to growth and profit, rather than social support.

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