rishi sunak budget

Government to support 100 ‘levelling-up’ projects with £2bn fund

Image credit: reuters

Rishi Sunak has announced a “landmark” Levelling Up Fund that will support 100 regeneration, transportation and community projects across the UK.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled "transformational funding" of around £2.1bn for 100 projects that he said will benefit millions of people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The new funding includes £672m to develop better transport links, £821m for community regeneration and £594m to restore local heritage sites, as well as other education, clean technology and community initiatives. 

The Department for Levelling Up promised that the latest round of levelling up funding would deliver much-needed economic growth and new jobs to historically overlooked areas.

"Through greater investment in local areas, we can grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere," said Sunak.

"That's why we are backing more than 100 projects with new transformational funding to level up local communities across the United Kingdom. By reaching even more parts of the country than before, we will build a future of optimism and pride in people’s lives and the places they call home.” 

Under the initiative, Eden Project North will receive £50m to transform the Lancashire town’s seafront into a "world-class visitor attraction", as well as support other regeneration projects in Morecambe. 

Cardiff Crossrail has been allocated the same amount to improve the journey to and from the city, while a new roll-on, roll-off ferry for Fair Isle in the Shetlands would get nearly £27m.

Blackpool Council and Wyre Council will receive £40m to deliver a 'Multiversity'. The department described this initiative as "a carbon-neutral, education campus" to be located in Blackpool’s Talbot Gateway Central Business District.

The Multiversity will promote higher-level skills, including automation and artificial intelligence, helping young people secure jobs of the future.

Sunak's own constituency of Richmond, in North Yorkshire, will receive £19m to develop the Catterick Garrison town centre, create new routes for walking and cycling, a new town square, and a new community facility.

The regeneration of Gateshead Quays and the Sage, and a new direct train service linking four of Cornwall’s largest urban areas, are some of the other projects supported by the fund in England.

In Scotland, ten projects will share £177m of funding, including £20m to help turn Arbuthnot House in Aberdeenshire into a museum and library, as well as modernising Macduff Aquarium, and £20m to refurbish the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock.

The fund will support another 10 projects in Northern Ireland with £71m. The funding will include almost £10m to create new waterfront gardens in the city of Bangor, £9m to transform the former Maghera High School into a new industrial park and £20m to create a new leisure and wellbeing centre in Enniskillen.

In total, the initiative is set to support 111 areas of the UK.

"This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride," said levelling up secretary Michael Gove. "We are delivering on the people’s priorities, levelling-up across the UK to ensure that no matter where you are from, you can go as far as your talents will take you.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt called it a “major down payment on local jobs, growth and regeneration”, and confirmed there would be a second round of the Levelling Up Fund.

However, Labour has criticised the government's plan, describing as a “Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another”.

“The Levelling Up Fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism,” said Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary.

“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."

Sunak defended the decision to support his own constituents during a visit to Accrington.

"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," Sunak said.

The levelling-up vision was one pioneered by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who promised to “level up” towns and communities across the UK.

The announcement of the funding comes alongside the launch of a new interactive map, which can be viewed online and will allow the public to see which projects in their area have received funding.

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