What Is Levelling Up and What Does It Mean for Me?
According to the government’s website, Levelling Up means creating opportunities for everyone across the UK. There has been an allocation of £4.8 billion towards over 200 projects across the country as a way of doing the following:
Improving jobs, pay and living standards
Making streets safer
Protecting health and wellbeing
Investing in high streets and town centres
Improving local transport
The government department is all about making sure everyone has the opportunities that they should, without having where they live hinder them or any progress.The funding goes to different areas up and down the UK and protects important local landmarks, such as pubs, sports clubs and community hubs.
In the past week, the latest bids have been announced that will receive a share of £2.1 billion of the latest funding. This has come under heavy scrutiny and criticism as more projects in the south of England are receiving funding than the poorer areas of the north. While the government is quick to point out that the funding per person is bigger for the north east, some London boroughs will get more funding than the whole of Yorkshire alone.
One of the latest bids is for a sister Eden Project site in Morecambe, which will cost £50 million, and is expected to become an eco-tourist attraction to the derelict site on the seafront. Cornwall will also receive a £50 million grant for a coast to coast Mid Cornwall Metro and Accrington is getting £20 million to improve its town square. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s constituency, Richmond, is receiving £19 million, which the Prime Minister has defended will aid armed forces personnel.
Criticism has been mainly geared towards Conservative underfunding over the last decade and how the allocation of the next phase of Levelling Up has been politically motivated. The Prime Minister says that around half of the funds have gone to non-Conservative areas, but Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, Lisa Nandy, says “It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities.”
The latest bids sees the north west of England receiving £354 million, the south east receiving £210 million and London getting £151 million. Northern Ireland has been allocated £71 million and the north east is getting £108 million. In October 2021, the first phase saw £1.7 billion awarded to over 100 projects.
According to some reports, the Conservative party has told MPs to not use the phrase “levelling up” as the public wouldn’t necessarily know what it means, but they have denied this accusation. Some MPs even suggest how bizarre it is that civil servants are distributing £2 billion of public money to areas they probably haven’t even been to. Other criticism has come from the way the bidding process works. Councils have been putting a massive amount of resources into their funding applications, which has been diverting money away from other areas that are in need of attention. There have also been concerns about how the funding won’t stretch as far because of high levels of inflation.