Levelling Up: some of England’s most deprived areas miss out again in round two of the Levelling Up Fund

One local authority in the North West has now spent more than £600,000 producing unsuccessful bids

Dozens of the most deprived areas in England have been left out of the second round of the Levelling Up Fund (LUF), including 10 areas which also missed out on the first round of funding, NationalWorld can reveal.

Additionally, three of the least deprived areas in England have been awarded funding, including a town in the Prime Minister’s North Yorkshire constituency.

One local authority spent more than £200,000 producing a bid for the fund but has not been awarded anything.

This comes after NationalWorld revealed that cash-strapped local authorities have spent more than £27 million producing bids for levelling up funding in recent years, at least £5 million of that on unsuccessful bids, and with rural areas disproportionately losing out.

Almost half of most deprived areas missed out

Using the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) indices of multiple deprivation (IMD) to rank all lower-tier authorities in England, we found that many of the most deprived areas in England have been overlooked by the government when awarding funding through the second round of the LUF.

Among the 78 places which make up the 25% most deprived areas in England, 48 were not awarded any funding through the second round of the LUF. This includes 11 areas which are part of a combined authority which was awarded some funding, though generally these awards were for infrastructure projects spread out across the entire region and may not directly benefit some of the more deprived areas within them.

Among the areas that missed out were Salford, Burnley, Rochdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Thanet and Stoke-on-Trent, all of which are in the 10% most deprived areas in England. Of the 32 most deprived areas, just over half (17) were awarded funding.

Taken together, there are a number of deprived areas which have not been awarded any cash from either round of the LUF, including Enfield, Coventry, Hastings and Halton, which also has not received any funding from the Future High Streets, Community Renewal or Town Deal funds.

While the majority of the least deprived areas in England have not received any funding from either round of the LUF, a handful have been awarded millions in the latest round, including Richmondshire, which was awarded £19 million and contains Rishi Sunak’s constituency.  Rutland, one of the 10% least deprived areas in England, was awarded almost £23 million.

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP,said: “The Levelling Up Fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism. 15 months after the first round of allocations, just 5% of the money has made it to the communities who were promised it. And despite today’s announcement, communities across the country are still paying a Tory premium for the last 13 years.

“It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities, which has decimated vital local services like childcare, buses and social care.

“It is time to end this Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another and Whitehall ministers pick winners and losers. That’s why Labour has set out plans for the biggest ever transfer of power out of Westminster, so local leaders can harness the skills and assets in their area to drive growth, and all people in all parts of Britain are given the backing to make a contribution.”

When NationalWorld placed Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all the councils in England asking what they had spent producing bids for cash from four funding pots, including round one of the Levelling Up Fund, a handful of councils also provided the cost of producing bids for the fund’s second round.

These included Rossendale, which has yet to be awarded any money from the main funding pots associated with levelling up, having spent more than £600,000 overall, including £205,000 on a bid for round two.

A spokesperson for Rossendale council said: “The adversarial nature of the bidding process pitches councils against each other, which isn’t helpful. As one of the smallest councils in the country Rossendale doesn’t have the in-house capacity to put these bids together like other authorities do so we inevitably have to spend some money.

“We are incredibly disappointed to have not been successful in the LUF bid but we will continue to push hard for what we feel Rossendale deserve.”

Bolton spent at least £79,872 on a round two bid, while Warrington spent at least £82,056, but neither has been awarded any funding.

‘We don’t use deprivation as the sole arbiter’

Analysis by NationalWorld found 71% of the funding for England went to areas with a Tory MP or a majority of Tory MPs. Of the £1.63 billion allocated, £1.15 billion went to councils or combined authorities that were represented totally or predominantly by Conservatives in Parliament.

Analysis at local authority level however shows that it was Labour-controlled councils that had the most success, scooping 32% of the funding allocated in England compared to 31% for Conservative areas. Across the UK as a whole, 31% of funding went to Labour-run councils compared to 24% for Tory areas.

Successful Conservative councils did however enjoy more substantial pots of money on average, with Tory-run councils across the UK awarded £21,940,000 apiece versus £19,550,000 for Labour-run ones.

Downing Street has defended the process that allocates levelling up funding to different areas across the UK amid criticism that affluent areas have benefited.

Asked if the money has gone to the most deprived areas, 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.”

Rishi Sunak himself erroneously said the North had been allocated the most Levelling Up funding per person, when in fact NationalWorld analysis shows this was Wales. Yorkshire and the Humber had the second lowest amount of funding per capita after London.