London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

Levelling up funding process is broken, says Tory mayor Andy Street

Levelling up funding process is broken, says Tory mayor Andy Street

The Conservative mayor for the West Midlands has lashed out at the process for allocating levelling up funds, calling for an end to Whitehall's "broken begging bowl culture".

In an angry statement, Andy Street said he wanted ministers to justify why "the majority" of bids in his region had been rejected.

The West Midlands received £155m from a £2.1bn pot of levelling up funds.

The PM has argued the most deprived areas would benefit from the money.

Speaking from Morecambe in Lancashire - which will get £50m to build an eco-tourism attraction - Rishi Sunak said his government was "completely committed to levelling up across the United Kingdom".

He said the process was transparent and that areas which had been unsuccessful this time would have another chance to apply for funding in a third round.

The idea of "levelling up" - or reducing regional inequality - was a key part of Boris Johnson's 2019 election campaign. Its aim was to close the gap between rich and poor parts of the country by improving services such as education, broadband and transport.

As part of the Levelling Up Fund, launched in 2020, local authorities can apply for money from central government to pay for regeneration and transport projects. The first round of funding was awarded in October 2021.

A total of 111 areas across the UK have been awarded money from the second round including £50m for a new train line between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Central Station and £27m for a ferry in Shetland.

The north-west region was the biggest winner, securing £354m and Conservative Lancashire MP Sara Britcliffe said she was "over the moon" her local area would receive money to refurbish Accrington Market Hall.

However, others have complained about the process for allocating the money.

The Eden Project in Morecambe will be a sister site to an existing attraction in Cornwall

Venting his frustration on Twitter, Mr Street said: "Fundamentally, this episode is just another example as to why Whitehall's bidding and begging-bowl culture is broken, and the sooner we can decentralise and move to proper fiscal devolution the better.

"The centralised system of London civil servants making local decisions is flawed, and I cannot understand why the levelling up funding money was not devolved for local decision-makers to decide on what's best for their areas.

"The sooner we can decentralise and move to proper fiscal devolution the better."

His concerns were echoed by Philip Rycroft, former top civil servant at the now-defunct Brexit Department, who described the process as "completely crackers".

"£2bn of public money is being distributed across the nation by a bunch of civil servants who have probably not been to the vast majority of the places they are distributing money to - how can this be sensible," he asked at a think tank Reform event.

Head of the Local Government Information Unit think tank Jonathan Carr-West called the system "crazy" and expressed concern that councils were putting "huge" resources into applying for the funds, diverting money from "other useful and necessary things".

Labour's shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said her party would end the "competitive-style bidding" process but would not cancel projects that had already been given the green light.

Defending the mechanism, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The truth is you've got to run a country somehow, you've got to have some kind of system in place.

"Not everything can be decided in the local town hall or by the local mayor," he told the BBC's Newscast podcast.

He said he agreed with the concept that "the closer you govern to people the better" but "in the end we are one nation, you've got to put the money somewhere, decisions have to be made somehow".

He went on to praise Mr Street who he said had brought "huge resources" to his local area.

Other projects set to get funding include:

*  £40m for a carbon-neutral education campus in Blackpool town centre

*  £20m to go towards the regeneration of Gateshead Quays, including a new arena, exhibition centre and hotels

*  £5.1m to build new female changing rooms in 20 rugby clubs across Northern Ireland

*  Just over £19m to improve public spaces in Hackney Central, east London

*  £45m to help the Port of Dover operate more efficiently, including adding more border control points


Related Articles

London Daily
UK's Infected Blood Scandal: Conclusion Nears After Seven Years
ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants for Israeli and Hamas Leaders
Julian Assange Granted Right to Challenge US Extradition
Congo Army Thwarts Attempted Coup Involving Americans and a British Citizen
Ireland's Homeless Gain Voting Rights
Blinken orders crackdown on Israel-Hamas leaks
Julian Assange Faces US Extradition: Key Facts
Jacob Zuma Takes Campaign to ANC Stronghold Soweto
Attempted Assassination of Slovakia PM Robert Fico: Investigation Ongoing
What Happens If an Iranian President Dies in Office?
Spain Recalls Ambassador After Argentina President's Remarks
Rishi Sunak Faces Cabinet Backlash Over Proposed Changes to Foreign Student Visas
Rwanda Denies Entry to Human Rights Researcher
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi Reportedly Killed in Helicopter Crash
Blue Origin Resumes Space Tourism with 90-Year-Old Ed Dwight
Rishi Sunak and Wife Akshata Murty Wealthier Than King Charles
New Dutch Government Drives Wedge Through EU Liberals
Iranian President Raisi Missing After Helicopter Goes Down
Freemasons and ‘Global War Party’ Accused of Conspiring Against Georgia
Poland Supports Rolls-Royce's Nuclear Power Plant Initiative
European Ports Overflow with Unsold Electric Vehicles
Esprit Files for Bankruptcy in Europe, Putting Hundreds of Jobs at Risk
Chevron Halts North Sea Drilling Amid Rising Tax Burden
Jeremy Hunt Accused of Exaggerating Conservatives' Economic Record
Victoria Atkins Discusses Historical Gender Bias in the NHS
Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 50th Anniversary: Calls for Justice
Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty’s Wealth Rises to £651 Million
New Caledonia Riots Escalate After French Voting Rights Change
Renters Face Fierce Competition as Listing Times Shrink
Surge in Fake Science: 19 journals shut down due to fraudulent papers from 'paper mills'
Global Birthrates Decline, Raising Economic and Social Concerns
Boeing Faces Possible Prosecution Over 737 MAX Settlement Violation
Prisoner Escapes in France as Two Officers Killed in Van Ambush
German Court Rules AfD Can Be Monitored for Extremism
Jacob Rees-Mogg Criticizes Bank of England’s Inflation Strategy
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Promote Invictus Games in Nigeria
UK Arms Ban on Israel Would Aid Hamas, Says Cameron
US Regulators Probe Credit Card Reward Schemes
Labour Vows to End Rwanda Deportation Scheme/Scam
Exonerated Andrew Malkinson Faces Hardship Awaiting Compensation
India Poised to Surpass Japan as 4th Largest Economy
UN General Assembly Approves Palestinian Membership Bid
Biden to Impose Tariffs on Chinese Electric Vehicles
Cyberattack Disrupts Major US Healthcare Network
McDonald's Introduces $5 Meal Deal to Attract Customers
Protesters Attempt to Storm Tesla's German Factory
The United Kingdom reports it has emerged from recession
Teens Forming Friendships with AI Chatbots
WhatsApp Rolls Out Major Redesign
Neuralink's First Brain Implant Experiences Issue