The awarding of levelling up grants today shows that this was always an empty slogan.
Of all the regions of the UK, the northeast has received the lowest total of any region in the UK – just £108 million. Not a single penny will be paid to County Durham through the second round of the Levelling Up Fund.
To place this into context, £20mn has been spent on a makeover for a high street in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire despite it not containing a single ward of high deprivation and being amongst the most affluent constituencies in the country.
Conversely, Stanley alone has three wards classified as ‘highly deprived.’ Despite this, Stanley’s bid was rejected today in favour of areas of far higher affluence in other regions.
Bizarrely, affluent areas such as Rutland, North Somerset and Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, have also been handed levelling up cash.
It says everything that the region that has benefitted the most through ‘levelling up’ funding today is the South-East of England, our most affluent region by every measure.
Unfortunately, this comes on top of years of cuts to local government funding which has already been allocating money to more affluent areas of the south.
£240mn a year has been cut to County Durham’s central government grant since 2010 and the Government has failed to match the projected £155mn County Durham was expected to receive from EU Structural Funds, despite promises to do so.
The Government has entirely lost interest in County Durham. Today’s allocation was based not on need but on political calculations (levelling up funding is twice as likely to go to Tory constituencies as areas represented by Labour).
What is particularly remarkable is that two County Durham Tory MPs are Government ministers and seem to have such little influence in getting money to areas with clear and obvious need in County Durham.