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Levelling Up Round 2: up to £2.1 billion awarded today

Rishi Sunak Levelling Up

100 projects have today been awarded their share of up to £2.1 billion as the second round of Levelling Up Fund. Projects from all four nations have been approved including:

  • Eden Project North will receive £50 million to transform a derelict site on Morecambe’s seafront into a world class visitor attraction. It will also kick-start regeneration more widely in Morecambe, creating jobs, supporting tourism and encouraging investment in the seaside town.
  • Cardiff Crossrail has been allocated £50 million from the fund to improve the journey to and from the city and raise the economic performance of the wider region.
  • Blackpool Council and Wyre Council will receive £40 million to deliver a new Multiversity, a carbon-neutral, education campus in Blackpool’s Talbot Gateway Central Business District. This historic funding allows Blackpool and The Fylde College to replace their ageing out-of-town centre facilities with world-class state-of-the-art ones in the heart of the town centre. The Multiversity will promote higher-level skills, including automation and artificial intelligence, helping young people secure jobs of the future.
  • Nearly £27 million has been guaranteed for a new roll-on, roll-off ferry for Fair Isle in the Shetland Islands. The service is a lifeline for the island, supporting its residents, visitors and supply chains, and without its replacement the community will become further isolated.
  • A total of £20 million is going towards the regeneration of Gateshead Quays and the Sage, which will include a new arena, exhibition centre, hotels, and other hospitality. The development will attract nearly 800,000 visitors a year and will create more than 1,150 new jobs.
  • A £50 million grant will help create a new direct train service, linking 4 of Cornwall’s largest urban areas: Newquay, St Austell, Truro, and Falmouth/Penryn. This will level up access to jobs, skills, education, and amenities in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the UK.
  • There is £5.1 million to build new female changing rooms in 20 rugby clubs across Northern Ireland.

Labour’s reaction

Labour have criticised the Levelling Up fund saying that it does not make up for past cuts made by Conservative Governments since 2010.

“It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities.”

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy

You can read the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary’s vision here. Lisa Nandy writing exclusively for Chamber.

The Government has also come under fire as the South-East of England has received more funding than the North East. Rishi Sunak has said that “the north” has received the most funding per person.

Transport

A particular focus has been transport.

More than £670 million from the Levelling Fund has been allocated to 26 projects across the United Kingdom to improve transport links.

This includes £40 million for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to transform its bus services, especially in areas of deprivation and for communities who do not have access to a car.

The North East Combined Authority will receive nearly £20 million to buy more than 50 new electric buses. This will provide more than 3,000 seats for passengers, improve air quality, reduce congestion and support businesses in the region.

Belfast International Airport will receive £2.3 million to purchase an electric bus fleet, which will have significant benefits for travellers and local people with better air quality and reduced noise.

Nearly £27 million has been guaranteed for a new roll-on, roll-off ferry for the Shetland Fair Isle in Scotland, providing a lifeline for the community, visitors and vital supply chains.

“This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride. We are delivering on the people’s priorities, levelling up across the UK to ensure that no matter where you are from, you can go as far as your talents will take you.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove

Final thought

Labour have a point that Levelling Up funding will not make up for cuts made by the last 12 years of Conservative-led Governments. In particular cuts to local authority budgets have been under massive pressure.

However politically speaking the Government is probably on to a winner. By centralising funding and requiring local government to apply for grants rather than paying out of their own funds, the Government has invented a steady supply of headlines, not just for the national press but in local papers across the country.

These headlines allow Rish Sunak’s vision for Levelling Up to be disseminated along with hopeful investments in local problems. He can only help it is enough to overturn Labour’s large poll lead before the next election.  

Levelling Up Commission
This year Curia is hosting a Levelling Up Commission which will consider ways to implement the Levelling Up agenda by including the perspective of Local and Regional Government.

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