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Levelling-up Fund

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

What criteria the Government used to determine the prioritisation of areas for the allocation of levelling-up funding. (914302)

What criteria the Government used to determine the prioritisation of areas for the allocation of levelling-up funding. (914303)

The levelling-up fund will be allocated competitively and is open to all local areas. As we set out in the prospectus published at Budget, the index used for the levelling-up fund places areas in category 1, 2 or 3 based on their need for economic recovery and growth, improved transport connectivity, and regeneration.

If the Minister does not mind my saying so, that index seems to be working in a rather curious way. It has not escaped anyone’s attention that some Tory target areas in England seem to have done extraordinarily well out of this fund, yet areas such as mine in the north-east of Scotland—Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council—are languishing in levels 2 and 3 of the fund, despite being forecast to be hit hardest by Brexit. We know there was a power grab with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. Is not the truth that we are now seeing a corresponding cash grab, because the Conservative Government know that not even all the rhetoric in the world about shared prosperity and precious Unions can spare their party from the hiding it is set to get from Scottish voters on 6 May?

It is hard to see how the £150,000 per local authority that we have already committed to is a cash grab from Scottish communities. We are investing directly in Scottish communities, with £125,000 in capacity funding already. This is a bidding process, and rightly so, but we are providing that capacity funding, and for the first round of funding at least 9% of the UK allocations will be in Scotland. As I said earlier, we are hugely excited about the opportunities we have now to work directly with communities in Scotland. We have already been in touch, of course, with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council to ensure that they have a good understanding of the levelling-up fund, including, importantly, securing support from Members of Parliament. I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman will play a full part in that process.

I am afraid that answer simply is not good enough. Not only are the Tories seeking to bypass devolution; they are also seeking to bypass the needs of Aberdeen. One hundred and twenty-three local authorities have been placed in pot 1, yet Aberdeen has been dumped in pot 2. The consequence of that is clear for all to see: it means that we will not have access to the funding that we need at this moment in time. Aberdeen accounts for a third of all job redundancies in Scotland since the start of the pandemic. If that is not a criterion for funding, what is?

It is published fully and frankly on the Government website. The hon. Gentleman can have a look at it; I would advise him to do so. Authorities are already receiving capacity funding, so it is not true in any way to infer that every single Scottish local authority will not receive support through this initiative. We are hugely excited about the opportunities this presents us with. We are going to be investing directly into communities. There is huge support for this funding. I strongly urge the hon. Gentleman both to read the documentation on the website and to get involved in playing a full part in the process.