Westminster boosts fund to help ‘level up’ UK
Stephen Barclay: ‘ensuring no one is left behind’
A fund to support town centres, transport and cultural projects was topped up by the UK government today to help “level-up” opportunities across the UK.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, said that communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will benefit from a further £800 million of investment by the UK Government on top of £4 billion already provided.
The Levelling-Up Fund, which was announced at the Spending Review, will be enabled by the Internal Market legislation to ensure that support and policy positions returned to the UK from the EU are applied equally.
It will take the place of a number of support packages such as the Local Growth Fund, though Westminster will want it to be seen as a key part of its campaign to promote the UK government as a force for good across the nations and regions.
The SNP’s Westminster Deputy leader Kirsten Oswald described the fund as a “naked power grab” designed to bypass the devolved administrations.
It will run from the next financial year to 2025, and drive regeneration in places in need, those facing particular challenges, and areas that have received less government investment in recent years.
The government wants the fund to invest in local infrastructure that has a “visible impact” on people and their communities.
Mr Barclay, said: “We are committed to levelling-up opportunities right across the United Kingdom so that all communities can benefit from our future prosperity.
“Our levelling-up fund will back local projects to improve everyday life for millions of people and we look forward to working with all areas to boost local economies.
“By extending the levelling-up fund to be UK-wide, we are ensuring that no community in the United Kingdom is left behind.”
The levelling-up fund is being promoted alongside the government’s plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the replacement for EU support funds.
Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, said: “The new UK Levelling Up Fund is a fantastic example of the UK Government delivering for people in Scotland. It will provide a boost to communities right across Scotland as we set out to Build Back Better from the Covid pandemic.
“This fund will allow us to directly invest in capital projects in Scotland. I look forward to working on the delivery of the fund in Scotland and with local authorities, who know best what their communities really need.
“The new UK Levelling Up Fund is just one way the UK Government is investing in Scottish jobs and Scotland’s future prosperity.
“We are driving a package of measures to level up opportunity across all parts of the UK, including City and Region Growth Deals, Freeports, the Union Connectivity Review, and preparing for a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund.”
Further details on how the Fund will operate will be published in the prospectus at Budget – including who can bid, the types of projects eligible for funding, and the criteria for assessing proposals.
The UK Government will use the financial assistance power in the UK Internal Market Act to ensure the fund is UK-wide.
The Levelling Up Fund will supersede existing local growth funding streams, such as the Local Growth Fund, Pinch Points Fund, and future rounds of the Towns Fund.
The SNP’s Ms Oswald said: “Rather than passing on funding through Barnett consequentials – which could have seen Scotland receiving its share totalling around £400m – the Tories are intent on dismantling devolution and taking control, with absolutely no clarity over how much will be spent in Scotland.”
Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “This announcement from the government rides roughshod over the UK’s devolution settlement and the control that devolved nations should have over the future of their communities.
“Councils competing for pots of area-based funding is not a strategic approach to securing our economy and rebuilding our country.
“We’re seeing this government’s true colours. The government isn’t just setting towns against each other, but nations against each other.”