Yorkshire councils spend over £3m on consultants in bids to win 'levelling up' cash

more than £3m of public money has been spent on consultants on attempts to win ‘levelling up’ cash for Yorkshire in Government funding contests, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Yorkshire councils have used a combination of Government grants to support bidding processes and their own funds to hire an array of private companies to support their efforts to receive money from schemes such as the Levelling Up Fund, Towns Fund and UK Community Renewal Fund.

More than £1m has been spent by Scarborough Borough Council alone in this manner.

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The council spent £189,586 with AECOM on a £50m bid for support from the Towns Fund for its Scarborough and Whitby Town Investment Plans which ultimately received £37.3m.

Scarborough Council was the biggest spender on external consultants as it sought to win grants from the Towns Fund for the area. Picture: Gary Longbottom

While the funding for that bid came from the Government, the council has additionally spent almost £900,000 of its own money on seeking external support for other Towns Fund bids which are yet to be determined.

The council says consultants fees have been paid upfront and it is intended they “will be claimed back from the projects upon successful completion and submission of full business cases and release of funding from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities”.

A series of Freedom of Information responses reveal different councils submitting bids for the same pots of funding have been employing the same consultancy firms to make their separate cases to the Government.

While almost £400m of funding has been earmarked for councils in this region from the Levelling Up and Town Funds so far, critics say the situation highlights how areas are being pitted against each other in a fight for funding.

Across the country, local councils receive almost £16bn per year less than they did in guaranteed Government funding than they did in 2010. The Levelling Up Fund will eventually be worth £4.8bn, the Towns Fund £3.6bn and the Community Renewal Fund £220m - collectively totalling less than £9bn.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “The use of short-term grants is increasingly representing poor value for money.

“Councils need certainty to plan local services without the added burden of navigating a complex and fragmented funding landscape. If fragmentation and ringfencing of grants is reduced, councils can provide much better value for the same amount of funding.”

The Levelling Up Department headed by Michael Gove has said the use of consultants is down to councils.

A Department spokesperson said: “The use of consultants is a decision for councils, which also are subject to a best value duty, ensuring that they deliver good value for money for public funds.”

There has been a recent increase in core spending by Government on councils, rising from £49bn in 2020/21 to £51.3bn in 2021/22.

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