Levelling up in the South West

“The South West receives some of the lowest levels of public spending in the country.”

The new fund is expected to invest in projects that benefit local communities across the country, from transport, town centres and regeneration to arts and culture.

“This could be a genuine opportunity to take the partnership from 2020 that has fused together public services in local areas and use the Levelling Up Fund as a chance to cement these relationships.”

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It has to be asked whether the ‘levelling-up’ agenda will be coming to the South West:

Devolution and levelling-up in the South West – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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The Cornish were asking questions last month:

Any confusion over the difference between the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and a new £4bn ‘Levelling Up’ fund announced by Rishi Sunak in last week’s spending review was cleared up at Prime Minister’s Questions…

Levelling Up Fund confusion cleared up |

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This is the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ which promises to replace, for example, the funding from the EU that Cornwall had been receiving:

European Structural Funds after Brexit: the UK Shared Prosperity Fund | The Institute for Government

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However, Devon is unlikely to receive much from this – and so will be relying on the Levelling-Up fund, as will other regions:

What is the Levelling Up Fund?

Mr Sunak has announced a new £4 billion fund to invest in projects that benefit local communities across the country, from transport, town centres and regeneration to arts and culture. The spending review says this will be open “to all local areas in England” with equivalent funding for devolved Governments… 

What is the Levelling Up Fund and what does it mean for London? – City Matters

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And whether the funding will help or hinder local councils is another question:

The future of our high streets: of levelling up and council funding – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Here’s an upbeat assessment from a couple of weeks ago, of how all parties could do well out of new, locally-focussed funding opportunities:

Levelling up the playing field

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s recent announcement of a £4bn Levelling Up Fund stated that it was ‘about funding the infrastructure of everyday life’. The fund will pay for ‘the things people want and places need’, such as new roads, upgraded railway stations, libraries, museums and galleries, and investment in town centres.

On the face of it, this seems to be a much-needed shot in the arm for communities dealing with the trifecta of COVID, Brexit and wider economic pressures. But, recent history is littered with one-off pots of money with similarly laudable aims.

The view from civil servants in Whitehall is that this fund is designed to find ‘shovel-ready’ projects that can begin to address decades of regional disparity and inequality. For ministers, this will be seen as achieving a major tenant of the 2019 Conservative manifesto, harnessing local knowledge to regenerate and renew places across the UK.

The view from town halls across the country is markedly different. The last nine months have meant challenge upon challenge, dealing with increased demand and complexity alongside diminishing resources and bandwidth. 

The thoughts of council officers having to develop business cases and filling in forms to qualify for funding will not fill anyone with festive joy. However, this could be a genuine opportunity to take the partnership working from 2020 that has fused together public services in local areas and use the Levelling Up Fund as a chance to cement these relationships…

Levelling up the playing field

Can the Levelling Up Fund help reset councils’ relationship with Whitehall? | Mutual Ventures

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Because, “the UK is one of the most geographically unequal countries in the developed world”:

Levelling up: where and how? – Institute For Fiscal Studies – IFS

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And the South West does need considerable attention:

SW businesses call for ‘levelling up’ as stats show region receives less public cash

The Chancellor is again being urged to back the South West as figures reveal the region receives some of the lowest levels of public spending in the country.

The South West Business Council (SWBC) is pointing to the Government’s own data which shows the South West has received less public spending than almost any area of the UK.

Tim Jones, chair of SWBC said the Treasury’s figures are a good reason why Mr Sunak needs to “level up” the South West.

He said the reasons for this are a combination of factors including seasonality, lower value sectors in terms of GDP contributions, poor infrastructure, long supply chains, being a branch economy which means the region adds value to goods and services but has very little end to end production, low levels of investment in business, poor access to debt and equity finance, an increasingly ageing unproductive population,an ageing workforce which needs upskilling and a lack of young entrepreneurs…

South West business organisations have already said they fear losing out to the north of England… The South West wants more cash to pump into growing industries such as green energy and lithium mining, medical and advanced manufacturing, and boost the region’s digital connectivity. But there are fears the region will be overlooked by the Tory administration and that its much vaunted “levelling up” agenda will prioritise the North where “red wall” Labour seats tumbled to the Conservatives in 2019.

SW businesses call for ‘levelling up’ as stats show region receives less public cash – Business Live

   
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