Swathes of England worse off even with levelling up funding, say Labour

The Government has been accused of failing to provide adequate funding for its long-awaited levelling up agenda, as Labour warned local authorities across the north of England are millions of pounds worse off than they were four years ago.

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy has set out the five main issues the Opposition wants to see from the Levelling Up White Paper, including better connected towns and villages and safe and welcoming town centres.

Meanwhile, Sheffield is among the first locations to benefit from a new regeneration fund, announced as the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper is expected to be made public within days.

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Analysis by Labour shows vast swathes of areas in England have received less funding since 2018, with Leeds losing as much as £109m, according to the data from the House of Commons Library.

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy speaking at Labour Party Conference in 2021

Ms Nandy said: “For all the talk of levelling up, we have been completely shortchanged. The Prime Minister has handed us a fiver, but nicked a tenner.

“Instead of delivering good jobs in every part of Britain, the Prime Minister is hopelessly distracted trying to save his own.

“This must end now. It simply will not be good enough to give us more of the same – pots of our money to scrap over – without real power on what it’s spent on or a few new mayors.

“We need to change the settlement of our country back in favour of those who built it. That means growing our economy by ensuring jobs and prosperity are spread fairly across the country so you don’t have to move hundreds of miles away just to get on.”

The long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, which will set out the Government’s flagship General Election pledge to tackle regional inequalities in detail, has faced repeated delays.

However, Sheffield, alongside Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, will be the first of 20 areas to see a “radical new regeneration programme”.

The programme, from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, will “breathe fresh life into disadvantaged communities” across England, Ministers said.

The £1.5bn Brownfield Fund will be made available from April, and is made up of cash promised at the last Budget.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are on a mission to regenerate the nation, transforming derelict areas in our towns and cities into thriving places people are proud to live and work in.

“This huge investment in infrastructure and regeneration will spread opportunity more evenly and help to reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”

A Government spokesperson said: “This analysis is misleading – it doesn’t take into account funding already allocated and ignores the fact that areas are still receiving EU structural funding and will continue to do so until the end of 2023.

“UK-wide funding for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, worth over £2.6 billion, will ramp up to at least match receipts from EU structural funds, which on average reached around £1.5 billion per year.

“In addition, our proposed 2022/23 settlement makes an extra £3.5 billion available to councils, including funding for adult social care reform. This is an increase of over 4% in real terms, which will ensure councils across the country have the resources they need to deliver key services.”