More than £2 billion has been allocated to more than 100 Levelling Up projects across the UK as Rishi Sunak denied suggestions schemes were being picked to shore up support for Tory MPs.
It comes as Labour accused the government of presiding over a “Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another” for key funding.
However, the prime minister refuted the accusation, and highlighted that the most funding per person is going to the north of England.
Regions in the north of England have received a total of £915,644,972 according to figures shared by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The government has endowed the north west of England with the largest proportion of the funds with £354,027,146 to support 15 projects.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Accrington, Mr Sunak said: “We’re delivering on what we said, we’re investing in local communities, this is levelling up in action.”
Despite the PM’s assertions, Birmingham’s chief Cllr Ian Ward said the announcement was a “kick in the teeth” for the many struggling in the city.
He told Birmingham Live levelling up is “nothing more than a slogan” as he claimed that out of 80 successful bids, “only half are in the 100 most deprived areas of the country”.
Here is a map which shows the amount of Levelling Up funding by region:
Concerns over favouritism were heightened by leaked footage of Mr Sunak at a summer garden party in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, telling Tory members how as chancellor he had channelled funding away from “deprived urban areas” to “make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve”.
Projects in the latest round of levelling up fund allocations included a £19 million regeneration scheme in Mr Sunak’s Richmond, North Yorkshire constituency.
The Prime Minister defended the regeneration of the Catterick Garrison high street, saying the funding would deliver the amenities needed by troops living there: “I’m really grateful to all our armed forces personnel for the incredible job that they do and I’m delighted that this investment will support them.”
Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said the latest round of investment is “specifically tilted towards the North, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland”.
Mr Gove told Times Radio: “I think more of the money is going to Labour-led local authorities than to Conservative-led local authorities and that’s because the money’s been allocated according to a set of objective criteria and on the basis of deliverability.”
Asked about the South East receiving larger sums of cash, Mr Gove said: “It’s simply untrue that the levelling up fund is concentrated disproportionately on London and the South East.”
He said London and the South East together constitute a quarter of the country’s population, but that per capita “the biggest winners are those in the North West”.
Downing Street has defended the process that allocates levelling up funding to different areas across the UK amid criticism that affluent areas have benefited.
Asked if the money has gone to the most deprived areas, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Each bid is assessed by officials, there’s a transparent process.
“The way we do that is set out very clearly online so anyone can go and see it. This is the right process and a number of different areas benefit.
“We don’t use deprivation as the sole arbiter of decision-making. We need to think about an array of different issues.”
REGIONAL BREAKDOWN OF LEVELLING UP FUNDING
- Yorkshire and the Humber: £120,619,162
- West Midlands: £155,579,834
- Wales: £208,175,566
- South West: £186,663,673
- South East: £210,467,526
- Scotland: £177,206,114
- Northern Ireland: £71,072,373
- North West: £354,027,146
- North East: £108,548,482
- London: £151,266,674
- East Midlands: £176,870,348
- East: £165,903,400