Councils spend more than £130m on paperwork applying for ‘levelling up’ funding

More than £130 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on paperwork applying for “levelling up” funding – including hundreds of bids that were rejected.

The Government has made billions of pounds available for projects to boost local economies such as reviving high streets or re-opening old railway stations but local authorities and mayors are forced to submit detailed bids for every scheme they hope to carry out.

New figures show that £130 million has been spent since 2019 just on applications.

Councils and mayor-led regional authorities have spent £55 million of their own money, while £75 million in “capacity funding” was provided by the Department for Levelling Up to help local authorities with a bidding process that the department itself oversees.

The data was published by Labour, which called for an end to a “Hunger Games-style” system which forces areas to compete with each other for money.

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy said: “For cash-strapped communities in need of investment, these competitive funding pots are the only game in town, but they mean councils are forced to waste millions of pounds during a cost of living crisis on bids, most of which now lie in a bin in Whitehall.”

The Government runs a range of schemes designed to boost economies in less wealthy areas, many in the north and Midlands, that councils can apply to for funding.

There have been 834 bids to the Levelling Up Fund, including 618 that were rejected, and 1,073 to the Community Renewal Fund, with 569 rejected.

Authorities submitted 626 applications to create low-tax Investment Zones, a policy announced while Liz Truss was Prime Minister only to be scrapped after she stood down.

Another 202 bids were submitted for funding from the Towns Fund, which were all accepted.

In an effort to reduce paperwork the Department for Levelling Up has agreed to provide the West Midlands and Greater Manchester with large pots of money from 2025, expected to be around £1.5 billion each, which local leaders will be free to spend on transport, housing and training without the requirement to submit bids.

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