How Does Levelling Up Spending Compare In The South East To Other Parts Of The Country?
Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove following the announcement of the next round of levelling up funding (Alamy)
Wales and the north west of England are the largest beneficiaries of the government’s most recent round of levelling up funding, data suggests.
Overall, 111 areas have been awarded a total of £2.1 bn worth of levelling up cash for projects such as transport improvement and community regenerations. It is the second round of this funding after £1.7 bn was awarded in 2021 to 105 projects that come under the government's flagship levelling up agenda.
While figures show that the south east of England is set to get more money than a number of areas in the north and midlands in the second round of the government’s levelling up fund, it is actually the north west that will receive the largest cash injection of all of the UK regions at more than £350m. The South East will receive the second largest amount, at more than £210m.
Residents in Wales, meanwhile, will get the most money per head, at £66 per capita, with the North West in second place at £48, according to figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Commuinities (DLUHC).
A number of Labour MPs have been critical of the decisions taken that saw their areas miss out on this £2.1 bn funding round, and The Times newspaper has reported that Tory MPs have accused Sunak of “making a mockery” of levelling up and favouring the south over the north.
So how does the spending in London and the South East compare to a number of areas in the North?
Yorkshire and the Humber received the third lowest amount of cash in real terms of all regions, with just over £120m allocated, or £22 per head. Only Northern Ireland and the North East received less with £71m and £108m respectively, but these equated to £37 and £40 per capita spend.
However, of the money allocated to Yorkshire, a town in Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency was among those to have benefited, with more than £19 million for the regeneration of Catterick Garrison town centre.
The decision has been criticised by other MPs who have missed out on funding for their own areas, claiming that Sunak is rewarding his own affluent area. According to the Office for National Statistics, only 23 areas of 316 in England are less deprived than Richmondshire, which received the cash for this project.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Labour's shadow levelling up minister Alex Norris asked “what on earth” were the criteria used to select these winners.
But during a visit to Accrington earlier today, Sunak defended the cash injection for the military town.
“If you look at the overall funding in the levelling up funds that we’ve done, about two-thirds of all that funding has gone to the most deprived part of our country,” he said.
“With regard to Catterick Garrison, the thing you need to know is that’s home to our largest army base and it’s home to actually thousands of serving personnel who are often away from their own families serving our country.”
Last year, the Prime Minister was criticised for suggesting to Tory members while on a visit to Tunbridge Wells in Kent that work he had done as Chancellor would see money injected into areas like theres, instead of “deprived urban areas”.
On the opposite side of the Commons, Keir Starmer’s Holborn and St Pancras constituency falls into London's Camden borough, which has received £7 million to help tackle health inequalities. According to the same ONS figures, Camden is the 91st most income deprived of the 316 local authorities in England, and other recipients of this round of levelling up funding rank higher.
Haringey, which has received £20m to turn a former Tottenham school into a community hub is the 42nd most income deprived, while Hackney and Barking and Dagenham, who have been allocated £19m and £10m respectively, both rank in the top 20 for the same metric.
Among the recipients of cash in the South East are Reading (140th most deprived), Dover (105th most deprived) and Folkestone (82nd most deprived) in England.
Southampton (101st) and Slough (117th) are also among the areas to receive funding.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove defended the allocations this morning, and said it is “simply untrue” that cash was just being handed out to more affluent areas.
He pointed to the fact that the populations around London and the South East are bigger than other parts of the country.
“It’s simply untrue that the levelling up fund is concentrated disproportionately on London and the South East,” he said.
London ranks the lowest on the per capita spending amount, with £17 per head coming out of this latest round of funding.
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."
However, regardless of regional split, Labour has been keen to point out that the total money does not go far enough to fill the gaps of years of real terms cuts to local government spending.
Speaking in the Commons today, Norris said: “The cuts to local government, and this is in cash terms rather than real terms, is £15bn over the last decade or so.
“Today’s announcement gives back £2.1bn.
“They have nicked a tenner from our wallets and they expect us to be grateful for getting two quid back.”
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