‘Levelling-up’ funds awarded to local councils of Tory ministers

Two councils in England represented by Tory ministers have received money under the government’s flagship “levelling-up” fund despite being among the least deprived fifth of local authorities nationwide.

Niamh McIntyre www.theguardian.com 

The health secretary Sajid Javid’s constituency of Bromsgrove got £14.5m in the first announced tranche of cash under the scheme.

Central Bedfordshire, which received £26.7m in levelling-up funding for transport improvements and a community wellbeing hub, is partly represented by Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary.

Lewes council, which is represented by the Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, received the ninth-largest per capita award despite being among the least deprived 40% of local authorities. Lewes received funding for local seafood industries and will also benefit from an East Sussex bid for a new road bridge in Seaford.

A number of areas of high deprivation received large awards, including Burnley and Stoke-on-Trent, which got £19.9m and £56m respectively.

Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, which includes an area that missed out on funding, said: “The Tories like to talk a good game on levelling up, but this is yet more proof that it is an empty slogan and that pork barrel politics is the name of the game.

“I think it’s high time that the prime minister, chancellor and levelling-up secretary come clean and explain to the people of Billingham, and other areas that have significant levels of deprivation but missed out on much needed funding, why they feel places like Yarm and Eaglescliffe in the Tees Valley, and Bromsgrove and Central Bedfordshire further afield, are more deserving of the levelling-up cash than they are.”

The government’s levelling-up fund is designed to combat regional inequality by investing in infrastructure that “brings pride to a local area”, according to the scheme’s prospectus.

Just under half of the 65 English local authorities that will benefit from funding announced in last week’s budget are among the country’s most deprived fifth. However, Bromsgrove, Central Bedfordshire and the Isles of Scilly – which is to receive funding for a ferry service – are among the country’s least deprived.

Although more Labour councils than Conservative-controlled ones received funding in this first tranche, Tory councils did better per capita at £93 per head of population compared with £65 per head for Labour councils. Councils with no overall control received £102 per head while the two Liberal Democrat areas announced thus far, Eastbourne and Hinckley and Bosworth, are in line to receive £183 per capita.

Where funding was originally allocated to a county council or city region, the Guardian analysis split the funding across the lower-tier councils that will benefit from a scheme.

The announced funding is part of the Conservative party’s broader “levelling-up agenda”. Other announcements have already been made under the towns fund and the future high streets fund while a further pot, the £220m community renewal fund, is yet to be announced.

The first tranche of the £4.8bn levelling-up fund announced last week included cultural regeneration funding for Liverpool’s waterfront and the reopening of the Whorlton Bridge over the River Tees.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “This analysis is nonsense. The selection process for the levelling-up fund is transparent, robust and fair, and we publish the criteria on gov.uk.

“The first round of funding will help to ensure opportunity is spread more equally across the UK by empowering local leaders, improving public services and restoring pride in place.”

  • This article was amended on 2 November 2021. A Beatles-inspired attraction in Liverpool will not be funded by the levelling-up fund as an earlier version stated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.