'Simply untrue' that levelling up funding favours South East says Gove

The government had promised to “level up” towns and communities across the UK, ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports.

Michael Gove has defended the allocation of a £2 billion levelling up fund, saying it is “simply untrue” that the cash is mainly being handed to the relatively affluent South East.

The Levelling Up secretary insisted the latest round of investment is “specifically tilted towards the North, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland”.

It follows criticism that the funding for more than 100 projects across the UK is being directed at areas not considered deprived, including Rishi Sunak’s own Richmond constituency.

But Labour accused the government of presiding over a “Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another”.

Artist's impression of how Eden Project North will look. Credit: Eden Project North

Where has received the most money?

  • Eden Project North in Morecambe has received £50 million for the regeneration project designed to transform the Lancashire town’s seafront.

  • The Cardiff Crossrail plan was allocated £50 million.

  • A new roll-on, roll-off ferry for Fair Isle in the Shetlands will get nearly £27 million.

  • £40 million has been set aside for Blackpool council and Wyre Council to facilitate the building of a new carbon-neutral education campus.

  • While £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.

  • Improvement on busses in West Yorkshire will receive over £40 million.

  • £45 million for Dover to improve the flow of traffic from the UK to the EU.

  • Around £48 million has been earmarked for Peterborough Council to build a new footbridge and entrance at their train station

The government said that £2.1 billion in funding had been split between £672 million to develop better transport links, £821 million for community regeneration, and £594 million to go towards restoring local heritage sites.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome told the Commons: “If you rank the 317 districts in England, Nottingham comes 11th.

“Despite the clear need, not one of our three levelling up bids was successful. Yet the prime minister’s own very wealthy constituency was awarded £19 million.

“So, when will the Government end this ridiculous charade of favouritism and truly level up places like Nottingham by restoring the billions in funding that Conservative governments have cut since 2010?”

Communities minister Lucy Frazer replied: “I am sorry the honourable lady was not successful, but the area as a whole has been successful. As I mentioned, the areas outside London and the South East have received more per capita than London and the South East. I would recommend that she looks forward to the third round.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, during a community visit to the Eden Project North in Morecambe. Credit: PA

The prime minister’s own Richmond constituency in Yorkshire is receiving £19 million in funding, with money going to Catterick Garrison to regenerate the town centre.

The levelling up vision was one pioneered by former prime minister Boris Johnson, who promised to “level up” towns and communities across the UK.

Sunak says the levelling up initiative is all about 'creating jobs and opportunity'

Among other projects set to benefit is the planned regeneration of Gateshead Quays and the Sage, which will receive £20 million, while £5.1 million has been provided to build new female changing rooms in 20 rugby clubs across Northern Ireland.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the support would see the government “firing the start gun” on a range of projects.

He said: “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.”

The announcement of the funding comes alongside the launch of a new interactive map, which can be viewed online and which will allow the public to see which projects in their area have received funding.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, offered a scathing assessment of the fund as she accused the Government of “extraordinary arrogance”.

“The Levelling Up Fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism,” the Labour frontbencher said.

“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, which has decimated vital local services like childcare, buses and social care.

“It is time to end this Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another and Whitehall ministers pick winners and losers.”

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