At today’s Levelling Up questions today (20th February), while expressing his disappointment that Lichfield failed in its two levelling up bids for a new leisure centre, Michael Fabricant asked whether a bid for Burntwood might be more successful.
Michael asked “On the subject of the next round of bids, my Rt Hon Friend will know that we were very disappointed in Lichfield that after two bids, we weren’t awarded any grant to help with the urgent construction of a new leisure centre. But does he not agree with me that possibly an application for Burntwood, an ex-mining town in the Lichfield constituency, might actually be more successful?”
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary replied: “My Hon Friend is a brilliant advocate for Lichfield. It may well be that his impassioned advocacy for the community that he has come to call “LichVegas”, may have meant that bids for the leisure centre might have been seen as de trop! But Burntwood certainly seems to be one of the communities that would be a prime candidate.”
Commenting, Michael now says: “I had explained to Lichfield District that their bid for the new leisure centre, while very much needed, was always going to be a ‘long shot’ and I know that this was understood by both Cllr Doug Pullen and the Chief Executive of the Council. Nevertheless we all agreed it was worth applying and I supported this with the knowledge that alternative funding sources would be available if the bid failed.
“However, the bid was flawed: not by any error contained in the bid, but because it was impossible to prove levelling up funding need especially compared to the needs of poorer applicants in England and Wales. Moreover, it was made clear in Government documentation that levelling up funding is primarily aimed at three categories of area: post-industrial towns, failing seaside resorts, and ex mining communities. The City of Lichfield is none of these. But Burntwood is an ex mining community and I urge the Council to think of a major and imaginative project there which would meet the needs of the local community. As Michael Gove said: ‘Burntwood certainly seems to be one of the communities that would be a prime candidate’ for levelling up funding. And I agree.”