Wales is the big winner in the second round of levelling up funding, getting more cash per person than any other UK region.
The North West, North East and Northern Ireland also got high amounts of funding per capita, despite accusations that the government had favoured London and the South East.
Michael Gove defended the allocation of the £2 billion fund, saying it is “simply untrue” that the cash is mainly being handed to the relatively affluent South East. The Levelling Up Secretary insisted the latest round of investment is “specifically tilted towards the North, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak himself mistakenly said that “the region that has done the best in the amount of funding per person is the North".
However NationalWorld analysis shows that Wales is the biggest beneficiary, gaining £208 million in funding projects in total which equates to £67 per person and £155 per household. Around £50 million will be spent on "Crossrail Cardiff", which will be a new line between the central station and Cardiff Bay.
The North West had the second highest rate of funding per person at £48, while the North East had £41 of funding per head.
London - with its population of almost nine million people - had the lowest rate of funding at just £17 per person, while the affluent South East received £23 per head.
However despite Gove's assurances that the funding is "titled towards the North", Yorkshire and the Humber has the second lowest rate of investment per capita, with just £22 per person. Out of the region's £120 million in funding, £19 million went towards the military town of Catterick Garrison in the Prime Minister’s wealthy North Yorkshire seat.
Gove refuted the claims, even when a story in The Times was put to him which said 52 Tory constituencies in England benefit – more than twice as many as those represented by Labour MPs.
He 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, he said: “It’s simply untrue that the levelling up fund is concentrated disproportionately on London and the South East.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you look at it in terms of the amount of money allocated per person, then it is the case that it’s the North West, the North East, Wales, which do best of all.”
Concerns over favouritism were heightened by leaked footage of 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”.
NationalWorld found that dozens of the most deprived areas in England have been left out of the second round of funding, including more than 10 areas which also missed out on the first round of funding.
Local and regional leaders have previously hit out at the process of competitive bidding for funds, describing it as “a lottery” which “pitches town against town” and represents “poor value for money”.
Dozens of councils have spent money and time producing bids for funding which have resulted in no payout, despite local authority budgets being under increasing pressure, with many smaller councils disadvantaged by a system which requires a large input of resources with no promise of a return from government.
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.” The official added: “We don’t use deprivation as the sole arbiter of decision-making. We need to think about an array of different issues.”