Lessons on Levelling Up

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This week the Government published the long-awaited list of winners of Levelling Up Fund (LUF) money.  In doing so it has provided more insight into what it means by “levelling up”, how it wants the funding to be used and what this may mean for future bidding rounds.

Lesson one: Priority isn’t everything

There were 94 allocations across England, Scotland and Wales totalling £1.6bn. Of this approximately £270m was allocated to 18 projects in Local Authorities in the (lower) priority category two and a further £100m to projects in the lowest priority category three.

Average allocations were slightly lower for priority category two and three bids (£15.1m and £12.8m respectively) than priority category one (£17.3m*) but still significant.

There were cases of projects in priority category three authorities that were allocated (almost) all of the maximum (£20m) that could be awarded for ‘normal’ projects; examples include a community wellbeing hub in Central Bedfordshire and Twycross Zoo in Hinckley and Bosworth (both awarded £19.9m).

It is certainly worth Local Authorities in lower priority categories considering bidding in the next round – especially as those in higher priority areas will have ‘used up’ (some of) their allocated number of successful bids.

Lesson two: Transport appears to be the strongest theme, followed by town centres and then culture

The Fund requires bids to focus on one (or more) of three themes: (1) transport, (2) regeneration and town centre and (3) culture. There is clearly cross over between these themes – but an initial review of the successful bids suggests that the split (by number of successful bids) is roughly 30-35% transport led, 20-25% town or city centres led, 10%-20% culture led, and the remaining being a mix of interventions.

Lesson three: Successful town / city centres bids appear to be bringing forward a package of projects  

The LUF allows you to package bids with up to three projects as long as ‘component projects represent a coherent set of interventions’.

There are 12 bids with ‘town centre’ in the name and a further three bids with ‘city centre’. The majority of these appear to be package bids. In fact, Stoke on Trent has been successful in two bids – ‘City Centre Regeneration Area’ and ‘Town Centres Heritage & Culture’ – both of which are package bids made up of three projects each.

Of these 15 bids, ten were awarded close to the full amount of £20m, including Cannock Town Centre and Aberdeen City Centre which are both priority category two areas.

This round of allocations certainly seems to suggest that a package of projects that form a coherent whole designed to improve town or city centres has been a successful tactic.

Lesson four: Larger transport schemes are by exception… but they do exist and they are significant

The LUF allows larger bids for transport schemes between £20m and £50m ‘by exception’. There were five successful bids above £20m – including £49.6m for the South Derby Growth Zone & Infinity Garden Village and £48.4m for Scilly Sea links.

Five of 94 bids is indeed by exception but this round shows it is possible, and if successful the prize is significant.

Lucy Dean

Any queries on Levelling Up or how to develop your LUF bid for the next funding round (due to open in Spring 2022), contact Lucy at Lucy.dean@quod.com

*For those submitted by the districts for ‘normal’ bids under the £20m

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