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More than 50 projects to benefit from £1bn in third tranche of levelling up fund

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has welcomed the money (PA)
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has welcomed the money (PA)

Fifty-five projects across the UK have been awarded a share of nearly £1 billion from the Government’s levelling up fund.

The money will help spread opportunity, create jobs and revitalise local communities, with £825 million going towards regenerating high streets and £150 million towards improving transport links, the Department for Levelling Up said on Monday.

The department stressed that the third round of funding is spread across all parts of Great Britain, after criticism that the last tranche was disproportionately handed to the relatively affluent South East.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was at the time forced to deny that the allocations were motivated by an attempt to shore up support in southern Tory seats.

The latest projects earmarked for funding were chosen from a pool of bids that were unsuccessful in the second round, avoiding the competitive bidding process seen previously.

The North West receives £128 million, the North East £59 million, Yorkshire and the Humber £169 million and the Midlands £171 million in total, according to the levelling up department.

Allocations include £20 million to grow fishing and high-skilled sustainable jobs in Torbay, £18 million to regenerate three former mining communities in Doncaster and £15 million to upgrade Blackpool’s transport network.

The highest award in the funding round – £48 million – goes towards upgrading the Penistone railway line in Yorkshire.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Levelling up means delivering local people’s priorities and bringing transformational change in communities that have, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued.

“Today we are backing 55 projects across the UK with £1 billion to create new jobs and opportunities, power economic growth and revitalise local areas.

“This funding sits alongside our wider initiatives to spread growth, through devolving more money and power out of Westminster to towns and cities, putting in place bespoke interventions to places that need it most, and our Long-Term Plan for Towns.”

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) complained that no cash was allocated to Northern Ireland despite “hundreds of suitable applications”.

The party’s Treasury spokesman Sammy Wilson said: “This is an outrageous act by the Government. Under the cloak of economic blackmail, the Government has syphoned money away from Northern Ireland to shore up Conservative seats in England.

“The Government’s rationale for this decision is as spurious as it is outrageous. An absence of an Executive has no material effect on the allocations indeed, the principal objection in Scotland and Wales to the Levelling Up Fund is that it is driven by Westminster rather than the devolved regions.

“The Government should be honest. The real reason for this allocation is to direct more money into the marginal seats in Great Britain where the Conservative Party is struggling.”

Mr Wilson later expressed his anger in the Commons, with communities minister Jacob Young replying: “We have set aside what Northern Ireland’s allocation would have been in this round and I commit to working with him and his colleagues to ensure that Northern Ireland does receive the full benefits of levelling up.”

For Labour, shadow business minister Justin Madders accused the Government of “giving up” as he questioned what the future holds for unsuccessful bids.

He told the Commons: “What is the plan to address those communities that are crumbling, those high streets that are emptying, is this the end of any hope of levelling up for them?”

He said the Government’s statement “offers no path ahead to deal with those issues, it just rearranges the deckchairs with what has gone before”, adding: “They are not levelling up, they’re giving up.”

SNP former Westminster leader Ian Blackford said several projects in his Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency benefited from EU funding, adding: “Money that would have come if we stayed in the European Union as Scotland had voted to.”

He added: “Once again we’re getting nothing, zip all from this Tory Government.”

Mr Young said Mr Blackford was “wrong” and said he would provide written details on money the SNP MP’s area has received from the UK Share Prosperity Fund.

Labour MP Michael Shanks (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) asked whether local authorities would be reimbursed for the costs of the bids, saying they had spent “huge amounts of time, expertise, and money” putting together.

Mr Shanks asked: “Will he think about the total costs involved in that and reimburse those local authorities for those costs?”

Mr Young said: “I can’t give refunds unfortunately but, as I say, the purpose of our funding simplification programme is all about ensuring that we step forward to a simpler version of funding that meets councils’ needs, rather than asking councils to meet the needs of various funding streams.”