“While I can understand the frustration of Mayor Andy Street and councils who lost out in the second round of the Levelling Up awards, simply devolving it – as Andy has suggested – is not the answer” says Michael Fabricant.
“£2.1 billion, the total value of the most recent levelling up fund, would spread very thinly across all the authorities in the United Kingdom if it were to be devolved in that way. It would not make the big differences that Levelling Up Awards are meant to make. With just over 100 projects chosen in the current round with an aim ‘to create jobs and boost economic growth’, there were always going to be winners and losers. The winning big spending projects included £672 million to develop better transport links, £821 million to kick-start community regeneration, and £594 million to restore local heritage sites.
“And while I understand what Andy Street is suggesting makes sense for his area, Staffordshire and other shire counties are not part of any Metro Mayoral region. Indeed, most parts of the UK are not part of any Metro Mayoral region. So who should make the decision as to where money should be spent?
“Like monies allocated by the National Lottery, whether it be for the arts or sports funding, some national body is needed to decide where to target funding to make the biggest impact anywhere in the UK.
“While I can readily accept that the present process is not perfect – which process ever is? – it was thought at the time that money to be allocated to local authorities, should be decided by officials in central government used to dealing with local government. Was that wrong?
“If it is, and Andy Street or my own councillors and constituents can suggest a better way to distribute these funds to local authorities and to Metro Mayors, let me know! A dispassionate view will have to be taken by any organisation as to which projects should win and which ones should lose out. I would be happy to pass on any practical ideas to my colleagues in Government.”