Levelling Up

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 20 November 2023.

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Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 3:36, 20 November 2023

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on levelling up. This Government are committed to levelling up and creating opportunities across all regions and nations of the UK. Last year, we set out our 12 levelling-up missions in the levelling-up White Paper, all principally aimed at tackling regional inequality, because we believe that people’s opportunities should be the same wherever they live, be it in a city or town, on an island, or in a rural or coastal community. I am proud to say that since 2019 this Conservative Government have committed over £13 billion of local growth funding to levelling up. Through the levelling-up fund, the town deal, the UK shared prosperity fund, the future high streets fund and much more, we are regenerating town centres and high streets, improving local transport, funding heritage assets and boosting productivity, jobs and living standards.

Our recently announced long-term plan for towns is providing long-term investment for 55 towns, and the money is to be spent on local people’s priorities. We have launched our investment zone programme: 12 investment zones across the UK will grow key industries of the future and increase jobs. That includes west Yorkshire’s investment zone, announced earlier today, which will focus on life sciences.

We have also made excellent progress on freeports. All freeports in England are now open for business, and we have announced a further four in Wales and Scotland. As levelling-up Minister, I have been lucky enough to see at first hand how we are using this transformative funding to unlock the potential of local economies and improve the everyday life of people across the UK. We recognise the good that this funding can do, so we have embarked on an ambitious plan to simplify the funding landscape for local authorities, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Our simplification plan describes how this Government will deliver our levelling-up White Paper’s commitment to streamlining funds in three phases of reform. First, there will be an immediate simplification of existing funds. Secondly, we will establish a funding simplification doctrine, by which central Government will abide. Finally, we will implement further reforms at the next spending review. We have already delivered much of the first phase. For instance, we have given local authorities greater freedom to adjust their town deal, future high street and levelling-up fund projects. We have also invited 10 local authorities to become part of the fund simplification pathfinder pilot, which will give them greater flexibility to move money between different funds. By increasing local flexibility, we will reduce bureaucracy and inefficiency within the delivery process.

The second phase of our funding simplification plan will see the Government launch a new funding simplification doctrine, which will change how central Government give funding to local authorities. It is clear that funding competitions can drive value for money and help identify the best projects for certain programmes, so we will continue to deploy competitions where they make sense, but we also recognise that bidding into multiple competitions, especially in parallel, can place a dispro- portionate burden on local authorities. The new Government doctrine will therefore ensure that we consider fully the impact on local authorities when designing new funds. Finally, we have committed to further reforms at the next spending review, including giving our trailblazer mayoral combined authorities in Greater Manchester and the west midlands single Department-style, multi-year settlements.

Of course, our work to give local authorities the right levers to spend funding efficiently is only one part of the picture; of equal importance is the funding itself. As I mentioned earlier, since 2019 we have made more than £13 billion available to local places. As part of that, across rounds 1 and 2 of the levelling-up fund we committed £3.8 billion to 216 projects across the country. We have listened to feedback from the first two rounds of the fund, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in July that we would take a new approach to round 3. As a result, we decided not to run another competition for this round. Instead, we have drawn on the impressive pool of bids that we were not initially able to fund through round 2.

Today, I am delighted to confirm the allocations of the levelling-up fund’s third and final round. We are investing £1 billion in 55 projects across England, Scotland and Wales. Copies of the successful allocations have been made available in the Vote Office. The sheer number of high-quality bids is testament to the enthusiasm for levelling up across our country and the hard work of so many hon. Members in supporting their local areas to develop strong plans for renewal. From Chorley, Mr Speaker, to Elgin, and from Doncaster to Rhyl, these local infrastructure projects will restore pride in place and improve everyday life for local people.

We have targeted funding at the places most in need, as identified through our levelling-up needs metrics. We have also ensured a fair geographic spread across Great Britain, including £122 million across six projects in Scotland and £111 million across seven projects in Wales. That means that across all three rounds we have invested more than £1 billion in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, exceeding our original funding commitments. It also means that across all three rounds of the fund, the north-east and the north-west will have received more per capita than any other region in England. They are followed closely by the east midlands and by Yorkshire and the Humber.

Our round 3 investments double down on two of our key levelling-up missions—pride in place and improving transport—but we also recognise the key role that culture plays in levelling up. We invested £1 billion on projects with a cultural component in rounds 1 and 2, and as part of this round we are setting aside a further £100 million for culture projects to be announced in due course.

We want to get delivery happening quickly. We will work closely with local authorities to confirm that their projects remain viable, and we will provide ongoing support to ensure that local places are able to deliver. We are committed to giving local areas the funding and power they need to deliver transformative change within their communities. We have committed more than £13 billion of local growth funding for communities the length and breadth of our country. We have invested in pride in place and reversed decades of decline. We are taking long-term decisions for a brighter future for our country. I commend this statement to the House.