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Levelling-up Fund Projects: Impact of Inflation

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2023

18. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the impact of inflation on projects to be delivered under the levelling-up fund. (903532)

The Government recognise that inflation has created a challenging delivery landscape for capital infrastructure projects, including the levelling-up fund. That is why we have made £65 million in delivery support available to successful applicants to ensure that local residents see the benefits of the Government’s investment.

Thank you for getting me in, Mr Speaker. As the Minister said, there have been significant inflationary costs since many of these projects were announced. The feedback I am getting about many of the capital projects in the Swansea bay area is that the same can be said for the city deals. What discussions are taking place with delivery partners to ensure that sufficient central support is available for projects that are in the pipeline to be completed?

There is a constant dialogue at a central and local level to evaluate projects and look at what can be done to maximise delivery in the anticipated timeframe. Obviously, inflation affects the whole economy and every Secretary of State who comes to see me raises the same issue. That is why the Government are so determined to halve inflation and set the conditions for growth.

Following the recent levelling-up round 2 announcements, in which all five bids from Birmingham were refused, as were both bids from the great city of Wolverhampton, but, miraculously, the one from the Prime Minister’s constituency was approved, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Andy Street, said:

“Fundamentally this episode is just another example as to why Whitehall’s bidding and begging bowl culture is broken”.

What is the Chief Secretary’s response to the Conservative Mayor’s comments?

My response is to explain that there is a rigorous process of scoring and evaluating all bids very carefully, as there has been over both rounds. In rounds 1 and 2, 45% was given to constituencies held by Opposition parties and 66% was targeted at category 1 constituencies. I recognise the disappointment some colleagues will feel and, therefore, there is another round. Details of that will be made available in due course.

Right now in the United States, job opportunities and investments throughout the country are being driven by the Inflation Reduction Act. The European Union is responding with an incentive package of its own. But the new Energy Secretary describes both those policies as “dangerous”. Does the Chief Secretary agree that the Inflation Reduction Act is dangerous? Or does he think that the UK needs a response that makes sure that we do not lose out on the green transition and that we, too, need a Government who want to see investment and jobs from the green transition in every part of the UK?

The Government are totally committed to meeting our net zero obligations. In the comings weeks, as we prepare for the Budget, the Chancellor will be considering these matters in the decisions he brings to the House. Every economy will have a different set of pressures, but we will do everything we can to address the need to find the conditions for growth, deal with inflation and ensure that we set the economy fair for the future.