Today is the last day for bids for the second round of the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which is helping reinvigorate communities in need of investment in every corner of the UK.
Through the Fund, which was launched by the Chancellor in November 2020, local areas present projects that they think will make a visible difference in their communities and improve everyday lives, including rejuvenating vital cultural assets, improving local transport links and regenerating town centres.
This is vital funding, which is supporting communities, spreading opportunity and tapping into the overlooked talent in all parts of the UK.
Projects such as the £18 million restoration of a 900-year-old castle in Wales, the revitalisation of neglected shopping centres around the UK and the reopening of the UK’s oldest suspension bridge in Durham.
In the Yorkshire and Humber region, we have already taken bold steps.
The first round of the Levelling Up Fund allocated £187 million into 10 projects across the region. This includes £12.2m refurbishment for the Halifax Swimming Pool, £20m to create new hospitality and visitor centres at Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham and £20m to convert a derelict site in Wakefield into a new museum and gallery.
It is a very exciting time. I am passionate about levelling up and I know that it is relevant in all parts of the UK including Yorkshire and the Humber Region.
Problems that hold people back as a result of overheated and overcrowded parts of London and the Southeast will be tackled by levelling up, while we address inequality and deprivation in the overlooked parts of more affluent regions.
We outlined in our Levelling Up White Paper our masterplan for reversing this country’s striking geographical inequalities and radically improving the United Kingdom.
We have already begun this great journey by investing £1.6 billion into skills thorough the National Skills Fund, forming the UK Infrastructure Bank headquartered in Leeds and devoting a record-breaking £5.7 billion into improving transport connections in our city regions outside of London.
We are relocating thousands of civil service jobs out of London, with more than 130 Treasury staff in Darlington, which will diversify our policy making expertise and make sure we are tapping into talent from across the UK.
We have allocated a further £830 million to West Yorkshire and £570m over five years to South Yorkshire to transform local transport networks, providing funding for projects such as the A61 improvement for buses, cyclists and pedestrians between Leeds and Wakefield, and the start of the Sheffield Supertram renewal.
Our Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’ will additionally provide up to £50,000 each to develop three early-stage proposals to reinstate passenger rail links between Beverley and York, Stocksbridge and Sheffield Victoria (Don Valley Line) and on the Askern Branch Line. This funding is part of the government’s existing £500m commitment to reversing the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
Areas across Yorkshire and the Humber will benefit from the government’s £5bn national programme, Project Gigabit, to support the rollout of gigabit capable broadband to ensure no area will be left behind - particularly benefitting rural and hard-to-reach areas across the country.
Yet, no single policy or intervention can achieve this change on its own. It requires both the public and private sectors and action across almost all areas of central and local government – from education, criminal justice, and health to transport, planning, and the economy.
This challenge creates opportunity across the country. By investing in regeneration and growth in places in need and areas of low productivity and connectivity we can boost the life chances of everyone across the UK.
By delivering for communities in need in all parts of the UK, we will unleash the productive power of the people and rejuvenate hometown pride.
I was born and grew up in Yorkshire, and I know this region is full of talent and ambition. Funding from the Levelling Up Fund is already driving regeneration, creating new jobs and attracting new businesses to the region. I look forward to seeing bids from the region as the second bidding round closes.
I am determined to press on with our mission to level up in all parts of this great country.
- Alan Mak MP is Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. He was born and grew up in York.