“Securing Levelling-up funds is especially important after the challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.”
HOWEVER: “We have this secretive bid proposal riddled with issues and muddled thinking. It could be hugely damaging – to the community and to the environment.”
There was lots of good news for Brixham at the start of the year:
It continued into April:
However, there seems to be some buyer’s regret going on, as covered in a piece from ITN this week:
It’s five o’clock in the morning and the auction at Brixham’s fish market is underway. Ian Perkes is on the hunt for monkfish, scallops, turbot and cuttlefish to send to his customers, most of whom are based in the European Union. Nowadays, to export fish to the EU you need to fill in forms. Ian calculates that the requirement to complete customs declarations, export health certificates and VAT declarations are costing his business £300 a day. He shows me a picture of Boris Johnson who paid a visit to the fish market in August 2019, less that six months before the UK left the EU’s custom’s union and its single market…
Back in Brixham, which voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU, not everyone shares Ian Perkes’ sense of remorse. For Karon Morris, who sells seafood on the seafront, the priority was political independence not economic growth. “We are taking backing responsibility for our country and for our laws, there were always going to be [economic] teething problems,” she told me. “How long were we in Europe? You’ve got to expect some disruption.”
The UK economy has been hit by a series of shocks in recent years. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine are the main causes of the brutal cost of living squeeze we now face. But the economic costs of Brexit are also becoming clearer and harder for the government to dismiss. For now, there’s little sign of widespread disappointment among those who believed in the vision Boris Johnson and other sold them six years ago. Ian Perkes appears to be in the minority.
To complicate matters, there is the local council’s bid for Levelling-up cash, as reported on Devon Live today:
Torbay is going back for a second go at securing millions of pounds in Government cash for two major bay projects. Having missed the boat in the first round of the so-called “Levelling Up” funding, Torbay Council is preparing a revamped bid for the second round. The council’s Cabinet is tonight being asked to approve plans to submit the revised bid for an expansion of Brixham Harbour and a base for electronics and photonics businesses at Paignton. If the bid is successful, the council says the proposed expansion of the commercial port at Brixham could see an annual £5m growth in the value of fish and shellfish landed in Brixham and support 150 new jobs.
Cllr Swithin Long, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, tourism and housing, said: “It was very disappointing when we learned last year that we did not get the funding under Round 1 of this scheme. However, it has given us an opportunity to revisit our plans and take on board recommendations from the government and local stakeholders. We will now develop a revised application which we hope will be successful. Securing this funding will help to safeguard the future of Brixham’s internationally-recognised port and fishing sector and bring high-value jobs, growth and prosperity to the area. This is especially important after the challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.”
Here’s an alternative take from the West Country Voices:
So many towns and villages across our region desperately need more funding to support the poor, the elderly and the young. Levelling Up funds strike many of us as a bit of pump-priming disguised as an ideological commitment to close the growing, yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots (the consequence of twelve years of austerity and the impact of Johnson’s brutal Brexit). It also looks suspiciously like the funds are being used to reward loyal supporters of and donors to the Conservatives; we’ve already seen the £3.7bn of Towns Fund money directed almost entirely at towns represented by Tory MPs, seemingly regardless of their need relative to far more deprived areas.
But however cynical we may be about the agenda behind the allocation of funds, we are at the very least entitled to demand some transparency about the process, surely? There does not seem to be a whole lot of transparency about the pitch for Levelling Up money for Brixham.
It’s complicated because it’s not just about Brexit or party politics.
It’s about how fish are caught:
When we were alerted to the Brixham Fish Quay extension by the Better Devon campaign (which has a number of reasonable concerns about the proposals) we wanted to know more. We’ll let them explain:
“Devon is a fabulous place, but it needs looking after.
The bid being proposed to the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) to extend Brixham’s Fish Quay overlooks key sectors in our community that desperately need funding, seemingly without any consultation. It will also expand industrial Bottom and Beam fishing – at a time when the Government is signalling its intent to act to restore our depleted marine ecosystems.
Bottom and Beam Trawling is like driving a bulldozer through a national park.
Our area needs a strategy – a carefully thought through plan for improvement that prioritises need and looks to the future with clarity and transparency.
Instead, we have this secretive bid proposal riddled with issues and muddled thinking. It could be hugely damaging – to the community and to the environment.
You may well find that your own business, organisation or personal experience raises additional concerns about the bid and the way it removes funding and opportunity from other areas that desperately need them for ‘Levelling Up’.
First and foremost, the full bid application and supporting evidence needs to be made public for thorough consultation prior to submission. The closing date for bids is 6 July 2022 so there is plenty of time for the bid committee to respond, consult fully and transparently with the public.“
Ed, at Better Devon
This has already been covered on these pages: