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Levelling-up Funds: Criteria

Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

14. What recent assessment he has made of the impartiality of criteria used to award levelling-up funds. (900726)

The levelling-up fund targets money at those places that are most in need, using an index that includes metrics such as productivity, skills, unemployment and commercial vacancy rates. In round 1 of the fund, over half the money allocated went to the 20% most deprived local authorities.

I thank the Secretary of State for visiting Barnsley East to meet the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to discuss its regeneration proposals. He will have seen from his visit how, by every measure, Barnsley is deserving of levelling-up funding, so despite our previous two bids being rejected, will he consider Barnsley in the upcoming round?

The hon. Lady will know that the allocation is a completely transparent process. If she wants to find out more about the help sessions for local authorities, we can provide information on how they can improve their bids.

It is likely that Ipswich is going to be connected to two levelling-up bids, one from the county council and one from the borough council. Does the Minister agree that investing in sports opportunities for young people, particularly in deprived areas, can be transformative for levelling up, and will she therefore welcome our plans to transform Gainsborough sports and community centre? Will she confirm that the civil servants will work as quickly as possible so that my constituents can see results on the ground, like with the towns fund, where the civil servants are currently reviewing the business cases?

The recent report from the Public Accounts Committee was a huge blow to the way in which the Government are seeking to level up and it exposed once again the debilitating impact of beauty parades and unclear allocation criteria. If the Secretary of State thinks that was praise, then goodness me! This can be resolved in future by the Government accepting our calls for proper, sustained funding that is targeted at need. Therefore, to make sure that we are never in this situation again, will the Minister commit to accepting amendment 13 to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which will start this process?

No, I will not commit to that. While we hold the Public Accounts Committee in high esteem, we reject much of the criticism and we will publish our response to its report in the summer.