Committee finds plans to level up the country risk failure due to funding concerns
Substantive funding necessary to support local councils
The House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published its report on funding for levelling up on 26 May, which warns that the government’s aim to level up the country risks failure unless long-term substantive funding is provided to local councils to help them deliver economic growth for their communities.
The Committee’s report, which focuses on the government’s flagship Levelling Up policy, concludes that the policy is complex and challenging and, ultimately, likely to be unsuccessful given the government’s current approach to funding. The report sets out concerns surrounding the funding, delivery, allocation and funding methods, and the competitive bidding processes involved in the allocation of levelling up funds. In addition to this, the report is critical of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is said to have limited strategic oversight and has failed to coordinate the relevant funds across departments.
Among the recommendations put forward in the report, the Committee recommends that the local authorities that are most in need should be allocated money through revenue to achieve objectives in line with their local circumstances and that the government should change its approach when it comes to funding for levelling up to ensure that local authorities are given the flexibility to use allocated funds in the most effective way possible.
Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee, Clive Betts, said: “There is cross-party consensus in tackling the regional and local inequalities that are holding back communities across the country. But the complexity of the levelling up challenges mean they cannot be remedied by the Government’s current approach of one-off short-term initiatives. The Government should heed the lessons of projects such as German reunification which were accompanied by long-term funding and internationally recognised for the benefits delivered in terms of long-term, substantive growth. The levelling up policy requires a long-term and substantive strategy and funding approach, elements this policy currently lacks. Without this shift, Levelling Up risks joining the short-term Government growth initiatives which came before it. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is primarily responsible for delivering levelling up but is currently failing to drive forward the policy across Government. It’s concerning that DLUHC does not even appear to know which pots of money across Government contribute towards levelling up. The lack of strategic oversight from DLUHC of how levelling up is delivered across Whitehall raises doubts about whether the policy can be successfully delivered.”