MPs accuse government of wasting billions on levelling up agenda
The government has wasted billions of pounds through poor allocation of its Levelling Up Fund, according to a Westminster committee of MPs.
A new report from the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) said the way money had been spent for the government’s flagship policy to improve the North and Midlands had been “unsatisfactory”.
The government set up its £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund in a bid to “regenerate town centres and high streets, upgrade local transport, and invest in cultural and heritage assets”.
The agenda was a key pillar of the Tories’ 2019 election victory, which saw Boris Johnson win over many traditional Labour heartlands north of London.
The PAC report said that some of the bidders in the first round of funding, where £1.7bn was handed out, likely gave unrealistic claims and were given money ahead of more deserving projects.
It also found the money was being handed out without “a strong understanding of what works” and without clear metrics of what would be counted as a success.
PAC chair and Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier said: “Without clear parameters, plans or measures of success it’s hard to avoid the appearance that government is just gambling taxpayers money on policies and programmes that are little more than a slogan, retrofitting the criteria for success and not even bothering to evaluate if it worked.
“The nation is being squeezed harder than it has for decades, there is no more to throw away like this. The government must learn again to account to taxpayers for its use of their money.”
The government has already agreed to give £197m through Round 1 of the Levelling Up Fund to places such as Sheffield, Bradford and Hull to help them regenerate High Streets and city centres.
Of this, £20m alone has been given to open a new visitor centre in County Durham.
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “The first round of the Levelling Up Fund is delivering vital investment to communities across the UK that have for too long been overlooked and undervalued.
“The assessment process was transparent, robust and fair and the criteria included the need for projects to be deliverable and to fuel regeneration and growth to level up areas most in need.
“Further rounds of the Levelling Up Fund will continue this work, with unsuccessful bidders given feedback and able to apply again.”