Press Releases

NEF responds to spending watchdog’s criticism of levelling up spending

Chaos, moving goalposts and shifting deadlines has short-changed communities of much needed levelling up funding.

Just 64 of 1,300 allegedly shovel ready” projects were on target to be delivered by March 2023, according to a National Audit Office report in to Levelling Up funding

Among other criticisms the watchdog criticised the timing of DLUHC funding announcements. The management of the Shared Prosperity Fund was so bad councils were given just three months to spend a year’s worth of vital levelling up cash.

New Economics Foundation Head of Local Economic Change, David Pendlebury, said:

This report is damning and shows everything that’s wrong with the way Whitehall works – or refuses to work – with communities.

The government’s lack of trust in local authorities resulted in a deeply muddled approach to levelling up, in which cash-strapped councils were tempted with the promise of much needed investment, only to have their hopes dashed.

The government opted for a model that reflected their fundamental distrust of local authorities. Whilst the amounts on offer were always a sticking plaster, it’s still shocking to see the dysfunction of this scheme laid bare.”

An alternative system would:

  • Provide means-tested guaranteed funding for all local authorities to meet day-to-day spending on statutory requirements (can be ring-fenced)
  • Then provide a fixed pot of money for annual capital investment, as well as the means to capture returns (including share of exchequer benefits)
  • Enable local government to invest in the systematic things that are really going to make a difference to peoples’ lives – housing, transport, local amenities (parks, leisure, art)


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