Levelling up: 'A bumpy landing for second round of funding'

New designs for the hotel complex at the Gateshead Quayside arena site - one of the projects to receive levelling up funding. Credit: Gateshead Council

Rishi Sunak has reiterated his commitment to levelling up as the government announced £125 million for projects in the region.

The Department for Levelling Up promised that the latest round of levelling up funding would deliver much-needed economic growth and new jobs to communities across the country, as the Prime Minister promised to “build a future of optimism”.

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

In the North East, more than £100 million has been promised for projects, including £20 million to build a new arena at Gateshead Quayside and more than £16 million for film production "village" in Hartlepool.

In North Yorkshire, almost £20 million has been committed to a regeneration project in Catterick Garrison.

Analysis from ITV Tyne Tees Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick:

The Levelling Up Fund is a central part of the government's efforts to deliver on their promises to tackle the country's inequalities - but this second round of funding has had a bumpy landing today, with ministers accused of sending more to richer areas at the expense of more deprived regions like ours.

As ever, that depends on how you look at the figures.

In raw spending terms, there's £210m for the South East as opposed to £108m for the North East - but per head of population, our region gets almost twice as much.

The Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, seen by many to be leading the way in all things 'levelling up', told me today that he thinks funding should be much more targeted to less affluent areas of the country.

Local Labour MPs stood up in parliament this morning to complain that bids from places like Wallsend, South Shields and Billingham were rejected, while there will be money spent on Catterick Garrison in the Prime Minister's pretty leafy constituency of Richmond in North Yorkshire.

The government insists there are proper criteria on how bids are judged - but, not for the first time, there's an impression that areas with Conservative MPs have been prioritised.

These regeneration and transport projects are just the kind of things that so-called 'Red Wall' Tory MPs will be hoping to point to, to try to keep their seats.

Funding takes time to flow through the system though, there's not yet much to show for the first round of allocations announced in October 2021, and time is running out ahead of the next general election.

Which projects have been given funding in our region?

Hartlepool - £16,453,891 

The funding has been given to provide a "catalyst" for Hartlepool's screen industries production village, to provide jobs and opportunities in the creative industries.

North East Combined Authority - £19,597,261 

The funding will deliver a fleet of 52 electric buses, 26 rapid chargers and 92 electric vehicle chargers across the North East as part of transport decarbonisation in the region.

Northumberland - £14,712,547 

Almost £15 million will be spent on cycle and pedestrian lanes between Hexham and Bedlington to provide "better and greener" routes to work, transport hubs and tourist attractions.

Redcar and Cleveland - £19,999,859 

There will be investment in the Newham Grange highway scheme, as well as pedestrian and cycle tracks to better connect Guisborough town centre to Teesworks and the North York Moors National Park.

Tees Valley Combined Authority - £17,784,924 

Almost £18 million funding will deliver more than 15km of cycling and walking routes across the Tees Valley.

Gateshead - £20,000,000 

The money will help build a new arena at Gateshead Quays and The Sage, including an exhibition centre, hotels, bars, restaurants and walkways at Gateshead Quays which will create thousands of jobs and generate over £40 million for the local economy every year.

Richmondshire - £19,008,679 

The Catterick Garrison town centre regeneration project is getting £19 million, which includes new routes for walking and cycling, a new town square, and a community facility that will host businesses and a community kitchen.  

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...