Leaders call to end of 'beauty pageant' contest between North East councils for funding
The Government must stop forcing councils to compete against each other in “beauty pageant” contests to secure critical money, leaders from across the North have pleaded.
Top figures have united in calling on ministers to ‘hard-wire’ the promise of levelling up into UK law and put an end to competitive bidding systems for funding.
It comes after anger over the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) announcements made last week, which saw many areas miss out on cash.
The fund was branded a “Hunger Games-style contest” by Labour.
However, it was pointed out that both London and the South East had been awarded more money than the North East – though the North East did receive the third most generous allocation based on population.
South Tyneside was among those missing out on cash, with regeneration projects turned down for South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn
Winning bids in our region included £20million to support the building of a “world-class” arena complex on the Gateshead Quayside, £20million for new electric buses, and almost £15million for new walking and cycling routes in Northumberland.
But just six out of the 22 submissions made by councils across the North East were awarded any money.
Other projects to miss out including the building of a new footbridge across the River Wear, a new landing for the Shields Ferry in North Tyneside, and regeneration projects in towns including Wallsend, Ashington, and Stanley.
Across England, only 80 bids to the second round of the LUF were successful out of a total 370.
Ahead of the annual Convention of the North, which is being held in Manchester on Wednesday, Northern mayors and business leaders have demanded a switch to long-term funding settlements given to local leaders to close the North-South divide.
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “You can’t level up by pouring a load of concrete. We need to level up our people too.
“This takes long-term thinking and a baked-in commitment to strategic investment. In my patch we have shown what’s possible, creating 4,600 new jobs in 3.5 years and increasing adult skills enrolments by 50%.
“We must bin the beauty pageant of competitive bidding between councils. We need to replace it with a new social settlement that finally proves to the apprentice in Blyth that they are just as important to the future of this country as the graduate in Kensington.”