Heather Jameson 06 April 2021

Levelling up fund faces legal challenge

Levelling up fund faces legal challenge image

The Government could face legal action over its ‘troublingly opaque’ allocation of the levelling up fund.

Campaign group the Good Law Project has applied for permission to launch a judicial review, claiming the £4.8bn fund was skewed towards Conservative-voting areas.The group says the Government by-passed the Index of Multiple Deprivation as a measure to choose local authority areas.

Several experts have raised concerns over the fund, which was unveiled in the 3 March Budget. It ranked local authorities by tiers in order to give them access to funding.

However, several deprived areas were not prioritised, while more affluent areas did make the list. Furthermore, the more affluent constituencies of both the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the communities secretary Robert Jenrick, were both deemed to be high need under the criteria.

Analysis found that 14 areas deemed to be wealthier than average were ranked in the most in need in terms of the Levelling Up Fund, and all had at least one Conservative MP.

The Good Law Project says: ‘Government has invented a new, and troublingly opaque, set of criteria’.

It adds: ‘Once again, the Government has refused to give straight answers to straight questions about how they operate.

‘We will not stand for it. We have now taken the first formal step in legal proceedings.’

Controversy over the Levelling Up Fund follows the allocation of the 2019 Towns Fund, which was highly criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for the lack of transparency, which it said ‘fuelled accusations of political bias in the selection process’.

The Towns Fund provided cash for 45 towns, 40 of which were represented by at least one Conservative MP.

The Brownfield Land Release Fund image

The Brownfield Land Release Fund

To what extent does this early initiative of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities deliver on the ‘levelling up’ agenda? Lawrence Turner reports.
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