Councils spend millions on levelling up bids, new figures show
Councils in England have spent at least £27 million producing bids for levelling up funding, according to new research.
But the figures obtained by UK news agency NationalWorld reveal that many bids failed to result in any government money being awarded.
The agency says local and regional leaders have hit out at the process of competitive bidding for funds, which has been used to distribute cash to councils for special projects as part of the levelling up agenda.
Some have described it as a lottery which pitches town against town and represents poor value for money.
They say many smaller councils are disadvantaged by a system which requires a large input of resources with no promise of a return from the Government.
The new figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 245 upper and lower-tier local authorities in England, show councils have spent at least £26.9 million on bids, most of it paid to external consultants. Some senior figures in local government have raised concerns about the criteria on which winning bids have been selected, while others have reported a lack of feedback on why their bids were unsuccessful prior to producing further bids.
Since 2019 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has run several competitive bidding processes, with councils producing proposals for funding based on specific criteria to receive money from central government.
The figures show about £13 million was spent on bids funded entirely from council budgets, with the remaining bids benefitting from at least some central government funding.